grief attacks are real
Lifestyle,  Mental Health

Grief Attacks Are Real

Grief is something you don’t fully understand unless you are experiencing it. Once you’re in it not a whole lot makes sense and you wonder if your thoughts and feelings are normal. Sometimes you even try to validate them to yourself if you feel like they’re absurd or selfish. If you’re experiencing something called grief attacks, then you may be even more confused.

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grief attacks are real

I know, I’ve been there. Honestly, grieving is just being in a really bad on and off again relationship.

It’s been 3 months since my dad passed away. Before that, I experienced anticipatory grief for far too long. If you want to read about my experience with that, you can do so here. During the first week after his death, it was extremely hard as it should be after losing someone. Then after that, initially, I thought I did most of my grieving already. So while my family entered the first stage of grief (whatever it was for them) I felt like I was already been there.

Life sped by and nearly 3 months lapsed since my husband crawled into bed one early Tuesday morning to tell me my dad was gone and I started reading Option B by Sheryl Sandberg.

I purchased this book while my dad was still alive after reading its synopsis, thinking that it would help me somehow with what I was going through. The author, Sheryl, lost her husband and so she talks about grief throughout. Finally, I decided to pick it up and read it, thinking that reading it now would offer some kind of therapeutic benefit and help me with my grieving. I got a few chapters in before I learned about grief attacks.

I realized it was something that I was (maybe, most likely) going through. There were times in that first 3 months where I felt like I was handling things well. Then, out of the blue something would trigger me and I’d be a sobbing mess.

On more than one occasion, my husband has been the recipient of this. One time we were talking in the kitchen about something. Somehow it reminded me of my dad, death, and everything that changed. He turned around only to see me in tears.

I never knew what a grief attack was before I read this book. And I imagine it’s different for everyone. The only constant is that while grieving we see, hear, smell, notice things that we soon realize are triggers to us. Something as small as a song on the radio or the smell of perfume might do it. And it never did before, but it does now. And that’s all that seems to matter anymore.

It’s really not much different than an anxiety or panic attack. We process something and our body responds with worry or panic. When you smell that perfume or hear that song on the radio, you process it as grief (or an overwhelming sense of love that you feel is trapped inside of you).

What do you think would happen if you tossed all of your emotions into a small glass jar and capped it?

When the seal finally breaks, you feel overwhelmed and it’s intense. That’s the best way I can describe it. It’s how it feels for me. Your emotions flood your mind in a matter of seconds and before you know it your grieving harder in the span of five minutes than you did in the entire last two weeks.

To be honest, I’m still trying to figure out how it works. It’s like… How do I make it past the grief attacks? How often will they come? Will they ever stop? What stage of the grieving do grief attacks belong? If anything, I think as more time passes I’ll learn to understand it just a little better. The grief equation is a tricky one, and for the first time ever, it has multiple different answers. Grief attacks being one of them.

I’m thankful to be equipped with the knowledge Option B gave me about grief attacks.

Without knowing about grief attacks my grieving process would be much more confusing. More so than it already is being pregnant because half the time I’m not sure if my emotions are associated with grieving or pregnancy.

But, now I can move forward knowing that when I feel a sudden outburst of sadness and just want to weep, I’m going through a grief attack. They’re normal. It’s okay if I feel normal one minute and then like a wailing monkey the next.

Looking back, one of my most intense grief attacks came on my birthday.

My dad only passed away 45 days prior. The week before I was fine. Even the day before I felt pretty okay. When I woke up the morning of my birthday, I knew he wasn’t going to call or message me with birthday wishes. In fact, he’d never do that again. My birthday now lived on with one less birthday wish and I hated it.

I’m still trying to find the meaning of grief as I’m grieving. Understanding grief attacks have helped me to an extent, but I know it won’t rid me of the lack I feel. Nothing will. But, I’m grateful for the tiny bit of balance I feel now knowing that while my grieving experience is unique, I am not alone.

So, if anyone else is going through the same thing or something similar, know you’re not alone and that while it feels like you have balance at times it’s okay to lose it, too.

Your grief attacks do not define you.

They do not define me. So, don’t overthink it, but embrace them when they happen and understand that it’s only part of the process.

If you feel like you’ve had or experienced grief attacks, feel free to leave a comment below and reach out.

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  • Ashley

    You are so so so right. This happened to me after a big loss and it would hit me so quickly out of no where. Hugs and prayers for you on your continued journey!

    • SimplyTallary

      Thank you. I hope it gets easier for you. I know what it’s like to have it hit you out of nowhere. Just take it a day at a time. <3

  • ShootingStarsMag

    Great post! You know the actor Jason Ritter? His dad was John Ritter? Well, it was the anniversary of his death the other day and Jason wrote on Twitter about grief attacks, basically, though he didn’t use that word. He talked about how you think you’re fine for so long and then BAM! You can’t stop crying. It makes sense, but I’m sure it does confuse and upset people who want to think they are “moving on.” And I really want to read Option B, so I’m glad it was a good read for you.


    • SimplyTallary

      Yes. Sometimes they just come out of nowhere! And I think, once you lose someone, that they become a permanent part of you. There will always be things or times when that ‘BAM’ moment hits and you just want to cry because they’re no longer around. But at the same time, I think that’s normal because you’ll always miss that person.

  • Nicole Kauffman

    This is so encouraging to read and to know that it’s normal. Sometimes I feel crazy and have never termed them as grief attacks. Thank you for your vulnerability and transparency and I’m so sorry for your loss <3

    • SimplyTallary

      Thank you so much. I’m so glad I learned about grief attacks because they help make the grieving process make just a little bit more sense. And sometimes that little bit is a huge help. I’m sorry for your loss too. Thank you for reading and commenting. <3

  • Brenna

    Grief is powerful and I resonate with this article so much. I love how you touch that grief does not have to define you – I am working on getting past that, slowly but surely, it is passing and I am embracing it.

    • SimplyTallary

      I am sorry for your loss! It’s a process of understanding, embracing, and getting past it. At least that is what I am slowly learning. Thank you for reading and sharing a little about you, too.

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