Grief and Loss

Grief is our response to loss, particularly the death of a loved one. Grief can affect our thoughts, feelings, behaviours and beliefs, and our relationships with others. Many people experience feelings of sadness and anxiety. The experience of grief can sometimes feel wave-like; you may feel that your grief is behind you, but then be surprised when it suddenly returns. It is important to recognize that grief is a normal experience and that the process of grieving does require experiencing the pain of the loss. 

Some people try to find ways to avoid grieving, or to circumvent it, or to numb it with medication or alcohol or other substances, rather than experience it. But grief has a way of being persistent and trying to combat it can lead to frustration and negative behaviour.

Our responses to grief depend on a range of individual factors, such as our personality and age, cultural practices, spiritual beliefs, level of social support, and the relationship we had with the person who has died. Some of the many reactions associated with grief include:

  • Shock and disbelief
  • Anger
  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Guilt and remorse
  • Helplessness
  • Hopelessness
  • Loneliness
  • Depression
  • Despair
  • Drop in self esteem
  • Fear of going crazy
  • Feeling unable to cope
  • Questioning of values and beliefs
  • Relief 
  • Change in worldview

You may experience some or all of these responses, as well as others that aren't included in the list. Your feelings could even be contradictory at times. You might even question your sanity.

Therapy can help you understand what grief can be like, find ways to understand and safely express strong emotions, identify strategies that help you endure the pain of your loss while coping with the relentless "world must go on" aspect of everyday life, adjust to the physical absence of the person who has died, and work to redefine the relationship with the so that it can continue on, and even grow, through remembering.