Grief is an all-encompassing and often seemingly endless sadness and enough to drive a person insane. The pain you experience when you suffer a significant loss can be unbearable. While most people are familiar with the five stages of grief, ‘ it is still not something ‘ that’s experienced linearly or measurably.
Grief has some universal qualities, but it is still a deeply personal process and will manifest in different ways for everyone. Grieving can be incredibly isolating, and the symptoms are so varied and stressful that grief and loss researchers have coined the term “Going Crazy Syndrome” to describe the feelings of insanity and falling apart that are described by people in mourning.
The many ways that grief can start to feel like it is driving you insane are all incredibly normal parts of the healing process. When you are in the thick of it, it is easy to wonder if you will ever be OK again…
Grief Makes Your Mind Feel Blank
The loss of someone you love deeply is difficult to process. The thought of life continuing in the absence of someone that was a part of it can seem unimaginable.
Trying to mentally comprehend your loss uses up most of what cognitive ability you have. Sometimes, there is so much going on in and around you that your brain, quite literally, checks out.
You may find yourself drawing a blank or having been lost in a daydream. You may be unable to complete simple tasks, like doing the dishes or even reading an email. Absent-mindedness and forgetfulness can quickly make anyone feel as though they are losing their mind.
Thing like confusion, lack of concentration and inability to focus are all part of it. But there is good news. Take comfort in this: “They do tend to be temporary, but they last a lot longer than you would think.”- refugeingrief.com
It Is All in Your Head – Literally
There is a biological explanation for what is happening to the various parts of your brain during the grieving process. The stress hormones that trigger the fight or flight reaction in your brain are produced at high levels, and your body enters emergency mode.
Your response to grief engages and triggers parts of the brain that are responsible for various functions, including:
- Emotional regulation
So, if your mind isn’t working, or you feel you may have lost it; remember that you technically have. You have temporarily lost control of your mind to grief.
You Can’t Stop Crying from Grief
There are moments when you are grieving that you wonder how you could possibly have any more tears left to cry. Sometimes your cries are silent tears that slowly fall down your face. Other times the weeping physically cripples you and sobbing that leaves you gasping for air.
You may notice that small, insignificant things may trigger a crying episode seemingly out of nowhere. Being unable to control shedding tears can feel scary. Endless and uncontrollable crying is mentally and physically exhausting. The amount of crying is both physically and mentally exhausting, to the point that you’re emotionally drained.
This is when you start to feel like you’re going insane. It is hard to believe that there will ever be an end to your sadness and pain, and slowly, you begin to feel insane. Crying, however, is critical to healing your grief and physically processing your loss and pain.
Psychology today says: “Tears help us process the loss so we can keep living with open hearts. Otherwise, we are set up for depression.”
You Become Attached to an Object After Loss
It is common for someone who has lost a close family member or friend to find comfort in certain objects. This is often something that belonged to or reminds them of the one they’ve lost. To cope with inevitable separation from their mothers, children often form a bond with a chosen item, such as a blanket or a doll. Psychologists refer to items like these as transitional objects.
Transitional objects are personal, priceless, and can allow you to feel close to your loved ones while learning to live without them. However, in a society that can be quick to focus on moving on, you may start to feel some embarrassment in your attachment to your loved one’s belongings, maybe even a little crazy.
Keeping these objects close can be incredibly comforting and can help you feel a sense of closeness to your loved one. You may wear an article of their clothing every day or a piece of their jewelry. For parents who are suffering the loss of a child, it is often a stuffed animal or a favorite toy.
Remember that as you heal, your dependence on such items will weaken. In the meantime, there is nothing wrong with allowing yourself to be comforted by something that keeps you connected to who you’ve lost.
Your Grief Makes You Feel…Nothing
Perhaps one of the scariest ways that grief can manifest is through feelings of apathy and numbness. The lack of feeling can really be unnerving and make you feel like you’re going insane. In a time when you expect yourself to be overwhelmed with emotion, finding yourself without any can easily convince you that you are broken.
Sometimes, your lack of emotion can also lead to not caring about anything around you. There is no desire to engage in your regular daily activities, let alone in things that you once enjoyed.
The feeling that nothing matters anymore or ever will again actually make sense when you allow yourself some grace and patience.
When dealing with something so painful and living in a reality that will literally never be the same, it is hard in the throes of grief to imagine ever feeling joy, wholeness, or happiness again.
It feels necessary to protect yourself from ever having to experience grief again, so in the act of self-preservation, your subconscious decides that no one and nothing matters.
You are not broken or dead inside, and like all other symptoms of grief, apathy wears away as you begin to heal and reintroduce yourself to activities, friends, and daily life. Nevertheless, until all these feelings subside, it can feel like you’re going crazy.
Your Grief Keeps You from Sleeping
Sleep disturbances are a common occurrence during the grieving process. As physically and emotionally exhausting as grief is, sleep is still hard to come by. However, lack of sleep can literally drive someone to feel insane.
You may experience trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. Lucid and vivid dreams, even nightmares that include our lost loved ones interfere with the quality of our sleep.
All these types of insomnia are completely normal reactions to what your mind and body are going through. Your dreams are your mind’s way of processing your loss and dealing with the complicated and dark emotions that you may be avoiding during the day. These dreams will end up being beneficial to your healing.
“After a death, dreams of our loved ones are quite common.
We know how important dreams are to our overall health and well-being, but dreams also play
an important role in healing our grief.” From: psychologytoday.com
Sleep deprivation, coupled with the already mentally taxing effects of grief, is guaranteed to make you feel insane. Be patient. Rest when you can. As you move farther along in your healing, restful sleep will begin to return to you.
You Feel Like You Are Going to Lose Control
When people that are close to each other are grieving the loss of a shared family member or loved one, the grieving process becomes more complicated. Often, you may find that you need to “be strong” for or take care of those around you whose grief and pain may be felt more intensely than your own.
Caring for others while trying to process your own sadness and loss simultaneously can feel overwhelming and suffocating, both leading to a loss of control. It is critical that you set aside the time for yourself to process your own personal grief. Repressed grief very quickly manifests in other ways that can make you feel like something is wrong with you.
Watching family members grieve differently than you can also make you question their sanity as well as your own. Wondering if you should be crying more or asking why someone isn’t crying at all can make the already confusing state completely maddening.
Try and remember that there is no right way for any one person to grieve and be sure to show yourself and your loved one’s compassion as you each navigate your new reality.
You Have No Idea What Time or Day It Is
The dense fog of emotional grief takes over your sense of reality. All of your energy is dedicated to basic survival.
It should be no surprise then, that the concept of time becomes distorted and lost when you are mourning. Time may seem to stand still or speed up. Days can feel as though they are lost, with no memory or conscious awareness of them, causing you to lose track of weeks and months.
There is no question that the loss of time, and not knowing what day it is can easily drive you insane. Rest assured; time distortion is a very normal experience in bereavement. Your reality today is so different from the life you’ve had until now – even time feels different.
Grief Makes You Feel Angry All the Time
Anger is one of the listed and identified stages of grief. The loss of someone you love feels unfair and unjust. Quite often, the lack of control we feel over the death of a loved one manifests in anger.
Depending on the circumstances, you may channel your anger at the doctors, the person driving the car, the person who died themselves, and even at the universe or God.
Anger is all-consuming and emotionally draining. It can cause you to lash out at everyone and everything around you. Minor daily inconveniences like spilling your coffee or stubbing your toe can send you into an all-out rage.
Being unable to control your anger and feeling like a constant ticking time bomb adds fuel to the “Going Crazy Syndrome” fire. With time, the anger will fade, and your outbursts will become less common. You are not an insane person; you are processing your anger.
You Have Become Obsessed With Your Loss
Obsessive thinking and ruminating can make anyone feel like they are losing their minds. After death, it can set in and cause people around you to question your sanity.
It is not uncommon for people who have lost a loved one, particularly in sudden and traumatic ways, hyper fixate on death. Like a broken record, the details of your loved one’s death may play over and over in your mind.
You may become solely focused on how it could have been avoided, what went wrong, and who is to blame. You may find yourself spending hours and days researching the manner in which you lost someone close to you.
It can become the only thing you will talk about. Over and over again, even to the same people. This obsessiveness may feel like the act of someone who has gone mad, but it is one way in which your mind is trying to reconcile your loss and help you to begin to accept it as your new reality.
Ignore the accusations from friends and family and give yourself the necessary time you need to work through this obsessive focus. It will not last forever.
You Believe Everyone Around You Will Die
One of the reactions to grief that can be paralyzing and very scary is the notion that everyone you love is in danger of dying. A constant state of fear and panic adds physical stress on you’re already weakened by grief body.
You may experience paranoia and irrational fears involving the people you love and their normal day-to-day lives. It may feel like you are quite literally falling apart at the seams. The behaviors that this fear can cause may have you wondering if you are insane.
Constant phone calls and check-ins with family, frantic temperature, and breathing checks on your children, even fears around normal activities like driving, swimming, or even leaving your house all ways this grief-driven fear can show up.
Because losing someone is so painful, it is completely normal and understandable to never want that to happen again. The fear of having to experience pain and loss, coupled with your inability to control death, lend way to overwhelming and irrational fears.
However, these fears will pass. They pass slowly as more and more time goes on. Being afraid to lose the people you love does not make you crazy.
There is No Linear Path Through Grief
Grief is one thing that is universally shared among all humans. Although it is something that we all have in common, there is no end to the multitude of experiences and symptoms that it causes when someone experiences it.
Throughout your lifetime, you will mourn the loss of more than one person in your life. What you will find is that even you, personally, will never process grief in an identical manner twice.
It is well accepted that there are five main stages of the grieving process. And while it is a helpful guide to understanding the path to healing, you must remember that they are not experienced linearly and that many people may revisit stages more than once over the course of their mourning.
The five stages of grief are:
The ways in which you experience these stages are varied, intense, and personal. Feeling as though you are going insane is one of the most common explanations of what grief feels like.
The Ride Can Get Very Bumpy
Many professionals talk about grieving as a roller coaster because the ride isn’t straight and smooth. There are ups and downs, highs, and lows. We experience fear and discomfort and unpredictable and intense feelings.
The Hospice Foundation of America advises that we may feel more vulnerable and overwhelmed at special times and celebrations: “…especially at special events such as a family wedding or the birth of a child, we may still experience a strong sense of grief.”
Grieving Is Part of Healing
Leaning into your feelings and behaviors are important ways to facilitate the healing process. Our minds and our bodies are a complicated system that is working together to help us adjust to new realities, broken expectations, and profound deep sorrow.
If you are grieving and wondering if you are being driven insane by grief, you most definitely are not. But you are being driven by grief, and there is no timeline or textbook way in which that happens. And while it may seem like it will never end, over time, it will. And as for wondering if you will ever be OK again?
You will be. Grief has its own schedule, and in time, healing happens.