WHAT IS GRIEF?
Grief is a natural response to loss.
It’s the emotional suffering you feel when something or someone you love is taken away.
The more significant the loss, the more intense your grief will be.
WHAT ARE THE STAGES OF GRIEF?
In 1969, psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross introduced what became known as the “five stages of grief.”
These stages have been generalized to other types of negative life changes and losses, such as the death of
a loved one or a break-up.
The five stages of grief
Denial: “This can’t be happening to me.”
Anger: “Why is this happening? Who is to blame?”
Bargaining: “Make this not happen, and in return I will ____.”
Depression: “I’m too sad to do anything.”
Acceptance: “I’m at peace with what happened.”
HOW DO YOU COPE WITH GRIEF?
The grieving process
Grieving is a highly individual experience; there’s no right or wrong way to grieve.
How you grieve depends on many factors, including
- your personality and coping style,
- your life experience (how many people you know who have passed away, your faith, and
- how significant the loss was to you.
Inevitably, the grieving process takes time. Healing happens gradually; it can’t be forced or
hurried—and there is no “normal” timetable for grieving.
Whatever your grief experience, it’s important to be patient with yourself and allow the process to
Coping with grief and loss
- The pain of loss can feel overwhelming.
- You may experience all kinds of difficult and unexpected emotions, from shock or anger to
disbelief, guilt, and profound sadness.
- The pain of grief can also disrupt your physical health, making it difficult to sleep, eat, or even
- These are normal reactions to significant loss.
- There is no right or wrong way to grieve, but there are healthy ways to cope with the pain of grief.
SYMPTOMS OF GRIEF
Just remember that almost anything that you experience in the early stages of grief is normal—including
feeling like you’re going crazy, feeling like you’re in a bad dream, or questioning your religious or
Shock and disbelief – 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. You may also cry a lot or feel emotionally unstable.
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 may feel angry and resentful. You may be angry with yourself, God, the doctors, or even the person who died for abandoning you. 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.
Physical symptoms – We often think of grief as a strictly emotional process, but grief often involves
physical problems, including fatigue, nausea, lowered immunity, weight loss or weight gain, aches and
pains, and insomnia.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
1. Acknowledge your pain
2. Accept that grief can trigger many different and unexpected emotions
3. Understand that your grieving process will be unique to you
4. Seek out face-to-face support from people who care about you
5. Learn how taking care of yourself physically can support you emotionally
6. Understand the difference between grief and depression
Take care of yourself
Face your feelings. You can try to suppress your grief, but you can’t avoid it forever. In order to heal,
you have to acknowledge the pain.
Express your feelings in a tangible or creative way. Write about your loss in a journal. If you’ve
lost a loved one, write a letter saying the things you never got to say; make a scrapbook or photo album
celebrating the person’s life; or get involved in a cause or organization that was important to your loved
Look after your physical health. The mind and body are connected. When you feel healthy
physically, you’ll be better able to cope emotionally. Combat stress and fatigue by getting enough sleep,
eating right, and exercising. Don’t use alcohol or drugs to numb the pain of grief or lift your mood
Try to maintain your hobbies and interests. There's comfort in routine and getting back to the
activities that bring you joy and connect you closer to others can help you come to terms with your loss
and aid the grieving process.
Don’t let anyone tell you how to feel, and don’t tell yourself how to feel either. Your grief is
your own, and no one else can tell you when it’s time to “move on” or “get over it.” Let yourself feel
whatever you feel without embarrassment or judgment. It’s okay to be angry, to yell at the heavens, to cry
or not to cry. It’s also okay to laugh, to find moments of joy, and to let go when you’re ready.
Plan ahead for grief “triggers.” Anniversaries, holidays, and milestones can reawaken memories and
feelings. Be prepared for an emotional wallop, and know that it’s completely normal. If you’re sharing a
holiday or lifecycle event with other relatives, talk to them ahead of time about their expectations and
agree on strategies to honor the person you loved.