What Is Grief?
Grief is a natural response to loss.
You may associate grief with the death of a loved one – and this type of loss does often cause the most intense grief. Any loss, however, can cause grief, including:
• A relationship breakup
• Loss of health
• Losing a job
• Loss of financial stability
• A miscarriage
• Death of a pet
• Loss of a cherished dream
• A loved one’s serious illness
• Loss of a friendship
• Loss of safety after a trauma
The more significant the loss, the more intense the grief. However, even subtle losses can lead to grief.
Losing someone or something you love is very painful. After a significant loss, you may experience all kinds of difficult and surprising emotions, such as shock, anger, and guilt. Sometimes it may feel like the sadness will never let up. While these feelings can be frightening and overwhelming, they are normal reactions to loss. Accepting them as part of the grieving process and allowing yourself to feel what you feel is necessary for healing.
There is no right or wrong way to grieve — but there are healthy ways to cope with the pain. You can get through it! Grief that is expressed and experienced has the potential to heal in a way that can eventually strengthen and enrich your life.
The Five Stages of Grief:
1. Denial: This can’t be happening to me.
2. Anger: Why is this happening? Who is to blame?
3. Bargaining: Make this not happen, and in return, I will ____.
4. Depression: I’m too sad to do anything.
5. Acceptance: I’m at peace with what happened.
Common Symptoms of Grief
• Shock and disbelief – Right after a loss, it can be hard to accept what happened. You may feel numb, have trouble believing that the loss really happened, or even deny the truth.
• Sadness – Profound sadness is probably the most universally experienced symptom of grief. You may have feelings of emptiness, despair, yearning, or deep loneliness.
• Guilt – You may regret or feel guilty about things you did or didn’t say or do. You may also feel guilty about certain feelings (e.g. feeling relieved when the person died after a long, difficult illness).
• Anger – Even if the loss was nobody’s fault, you might feel angry and resentful. You may feel the need to blame someone for the injustice that was done to you.
• Fear – A significant loss can trigger a host of worries and fears. You may feel anxious, helpless, or insecure. You may even have panic attacks.
• Physical symptoms –Grief often involves physical problems, including fatigue, nausea, lowered immunity, weight loss or weight gain, aches and pains, and insomnia.
Coping with Grief and Loss
Tip 1: Get support
• Turn to friends and family
• Draw comfort from your faith
• Join a support group
• Talk to a therapist or grief counsellor
Tip 2: Take care of yourself
• Face your feelings.
• Express your feelings in a tangible or creative way.
• Look after your physical health. Don’t let anyone tell you how to feel, and don’t tell yourself how to feel either.
• Plan ahead for grief “triggers”.
The Difference between Grief and Depression
Distinguishing between grief and clinical depression isn’t always easy since they share many symptoms. However, there are ways to tell the difference. Remember, grief is a roller coaster. It involves a wide variety of emotions and a mix of good and bad days. Even when you’re in the middle of the grieving process, you will have moments of pleasure or happiness. With depression, on the other hand, the feelings of emptiness and despair are constant. Other symptoms that suggest depression, as opposed to only grief, include:
• Intense, pervasive sense of guilt.
• Thoughts of suicide or a preoccupation with dying.
• Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness.
• Inability to function at work/home.
• Slow speech and body movements
• Seeing or hearing things that aren’t there.
Supporting a Grieving Person
The death of a loved one is one of life’s most difficult experiences. The bereaved struggle with many intense and frightening emotions, like depression, anger, and guilt. Often, they feel isolated and alone in their grief. Having someone to lean on can help them through the grieving process.
Helping a grieving person:
• Listen with compassion
• Offer practical assistance
• Provide ongoing support
• Watch for warning signs
When To Seek Professional Help For Grief
If you recognise any symptoms of complicated grief or clinical depression, talk to a mental health professional right away. If left untreated, complicated grief and depression can lead to significant emotional damage, life-threatening health problems and even suicide. Treatment can help you get better.
Contact a grief counsellor or professional therapist if you:
• Feel like life isn’t worth living
• Wish you had died with your loved one
• Blame yourself for the loss or for failing to prevent it
• Feel numb and disconnected from others for more than a few weeks
• Are having difficulty trusting others since your loss
• Are unable to perform your normal daily activities