Grief is a person’s emotional response to the experience of loss while bereavement is the state of having experienced a loss. Reactions to loss are called grief reactions. Common grief reactions include difficult feelings, thoughts, physical sensations, and behaviors. People who have experienced loss may have a range of feelings. This could include shock, numbness, sadness, denial, despair, anxiety, anger, guilt, loneliness, depression, helplessness, relief, and yearning.

Common thought patterns include disbelief, confusion, difficulty concentrating, preoccupation, and hallucinations. Grief can cause physical sensations. These include tightness or heaviness in the chest or throat, nausea or an upset stomach, dizziness, headaches, physical numbness, muscle weakness or tension, and fatigue. It may also make you vulnerable to illness. A person who is grieving may struggle to fall asleep or stay asleep and even lose energy for enjoyable activities.

The stages of mourning include acceptance of the reality of the loss, going through the pain of grief. Adjusting to life without the person being physically present and finding new ways to remain connected to the person who has died. The grieving process is often harder when the person has unresolved feelings towards or conflicts with the person who has died.

The year after the death of a loved one is very emotional. Mental health experts suggest waiting at least a year before making any major decisions, such as moving or changing jobs. Consider making a list of decisions and tasks, and figure out which ones must be completed immediately. Try to hold off on the important decisions that can wait. Anniversaries, birthdays and festive occasions can be very difficult, particularly during the first year. With time, these feelings will often get less intense. You may find it helpful to do something special to mark an anniversary,birthday or make time for a celebration to remember your relative or friend.

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Dealing with Pain

Pain from cancer or from the treatments can affect normal day-to-day activities and cause trouble in sleeping and eating and even result in feeling irritable, frustrated, sad and angry. The good news is that all pain can be treated and most pain can be controlled or relieved. When pain is controlled, people can sleep and eat better, enjoy being with family and friends, and continue with their work and hobbies.

Pain is most often caused by cancer itself. The amount of pain depends on the type of cancer, its stage, and the patient’s pain threshold. People in an advanced stage of cancer are more likely to have pain which can be caused by a tumor pressing on bones, nerves or body organs. Surgery is often part of the treatment for cancers and some amount of pain is usually expected. Pain due to surgery can last from a few days to a few weeks, depending on the type of surgery.
When a tumor spreads to the spine, it can press on the spinal cord and cause spinal cord compression. At other times, cancer spreads to the bones causing bone pain which can be treated through external radiation.

Some tests used to diagnose cancer can cause pain and is usually relieved after the procedure. Even when you are told that the pain from the procedure can’t be avoided or that it won’t last long, you can ask for pain medicine if you need it. The type of pain you have determines the type of treatment. Chronic pain can usually be controlled by taking pain medicines on a regular schedule. People with chronic pain can also have breakthrough pain which varies in intensity and usually cannot be predicted. It typically “breaks through” the pain relief they were getting from regular pain medicine.

Phantom pain is a longer-lasting effect of surgery, beyond the usual surgical pain. If you’ve had an arm, leg, or even a breast removed, you may still feel pain or other unusual or unpleasant feelings that seem to be coming from the absent (phantom) body part. Other types of pain are:

  • Peripheral neuropathy (PN). Burning, tingling, numbness,   weakness, clumsiness, trouble walking, or unusual sensations in  the hands and arms and/or legs and feet are the main signs
  • Peripheral neuropathy is due to nerve damage caused by certain types of chemotherapy, by vitamin deficiencies, cancer, and other problems.
  • Mouth sores (stomatitis or mucositis). Chemotherapy can cause sores and pain in the mouth and throat. The pain can cause people to have trouble eating, drinking, and even talking.
  • Radiation mucositis and other radiation injuries can cause skin burns, mucositis (mouth sores), and scarring – all of which can cause pain. The throat, intestine, and bladder are also prone to radiation injury, and you may have pain if these areas are treated.

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