what is grief?

Grief is our natural response to losing someone or something very important to us. You may feel sad, angry, depressed, heartbroken, or have other grief-related feelings.

Grieving is the process of emotional and life adjustment you go through after a loss.

Beyond losing a loved one or even a cherished pet, grief can come from job loss, a child heading out on their own, or moving from your home; grieving is a process that is completely unique to you.

You will hear the term “new normal” as you work through the grieving process. The time it takes you to move through your own grieving process and find your new normal may take weeks, months, or even years, but you need to know, above all, there is no wrong way to grieve. How you cope with your grief is what can make all the difference.

grief in words

describing grief

As you grieve, you may experience your grief physically, emotionally, socially, or spiritually. Words and expressions that commonly describe grief may include:

  • Shock (like a bomb just exploded)
  • Numbness (you can’t feel anything)
  • Disbelief (did it really happen?)
  • Anger (not only about the loss but also in hearing things like “if there’s anything I can do”)
  • Fear or anxiousness of the unknown
  • Guilt (why didn’t I do more?)
  • Relieved (they are not suffering anymore)
  • Joy (feeling blessed to have had the time you had together)

You may feel one, some, or all of these feelings (sometimes within a few minutes!), and you begin your journey into grief, you may find yourself:

  • Pulling away from those close to you
  • Indulging in excess with food, alcohol, or other substances to “numb the pain”
  • Questioning your views on life or your faith
  • Feeling jealous of others who haven’t ever experienced loss
  • Unable to sleep well
  • Screaming at the person who offered one-too-many pieces of unsolicited advice

You may not be clear about what you’re feeling, but you’re feeling something. The best way to help manage those feelings is to talk about them with someone close to you, a trained therapist, or a group of others also experiencing grief. Talking it out can be very liberating and empowering.

“You can’t truly heal
from a loss until you allow
yourself to really feel the loss.”

– Mandy Hale

Loss can be traumatic in a number of ways, and that experience can be incredibly powerful and unsettling, especially for a mother losing a child

In your grief, you may feel like life will never be the same again. And it won’t. It will be different. For some people, there will come a point of acceptance that allows us to engage with reality as it is now. For others, the grieving process can flow into chronic or complicated grief, and, ultimately major depression.

chronic or complicated grief symptoms

  • Daily prolonged periods of sadness
  • Extreme focus on the loss
  • Neglect of daily responsibilities
  • Withdrawing or detaching from family and friends
  • Inability to accept the loss after a long period of time
  • Intense, prolonged anger of the loss
  • Persistent longing of the person who has passed
  • Feeling you could have prevented the death
  • Substance abuse
  • Suicidal thoughts

major depression symptoms

As time passes and there is little progress toward acceptance, a major depressive disorder may be experienced, with symptoms of:

  • Constant presence of negative emotions
  • An inability to see life improving
  • Deep feelings of self-loathing or worthlessness
  • Substance abuse bordering on addiction
  • Intense suicidal thoughts

it’s easy to not ask for help — but it may be the only way to accept where you are

You may feel like there is no hope and that taking the next step is impossible, but it is. Connecting with a therapist to work through your grief can be incredibly powerful in helping you come to accept your loss. But when you can’t move past your grief, you should get professional help from a certified mental health care provider. Likewise, if you feel your loved one is suffering and is having difficulty, encourage them to seek treatment.

take care of your “self” — the rest of you will be glad you did!