Grief, Loss & Bereavement

There are many forms of grief but while grief is usually associated with death, it can come with any type of loss. The more unexpected it is, the more fear it creates as we feel increasingly powerless and helpless.

The grief associated with the loss of a loved one tends to be the most intense grief we experience. But it is also helpful to know that grief can occur with any loss we go through in our life, including relationship breakup; losing our health or career or finances; death of our pet; having a family member suffering from a serious illness; losing an asset of a sentimental value, such as  family home.

Grief is a normal and natural response to loss, and all the above losses can create a lot of pain and suffering.

The grieving process is very individualized and personal such that everyone processes and experiences grief differently. Whereas some might feel better after a few weeks, others might need years to feel better. There is no set time. In all cases, it is important to cope with grief actively and not ignore it.

Signs & Symptoms

A variety of emotions are often experienced when we are in grief such as:

  • Being in shock
  • Feeling sad
  • Feeling angry
  • Feeling lonely, guilty or helpless
  • Fear and anxiety.
  • Feeling alone or that we won’t be able to cope are normal reactions.

We also often experience a variety of physical symptoms including a reduced immune system which can make us more vulnerable to illnesses, feeling weak, body aches, nausea, reduced energy and fatigue, insomnia.

Most have heard of the “Five Stages of Loss and Grief” introduced by Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in 1969:

  • Denial and Isolation, where we tend to deny the reality and it becomes a defense mechanism to help us with the shock and the pain.
  • Anger that could be aimed at anyone or anything because of the emotional pain.
  • Bargaining occurs when as a result of feeling helpless, powerless and vulnerable we feel the need to take some control by asking ourselves if we could or should have done something differently.
  • Depression with associated sadness, worries, regrets, and loneliness.
  • Acceptance, which is about accepting the reality and recognizing that the new reality is the permanent one.

It is important to know that not everyone goes through those emotional stages and there is also no sequential order. However, it helps to know them in case we experience any of them, and to know that we are not alone and what we are feeling is normal.

For more information, visit https://www.camh.ca/en/camh-news-and-stories/coping-with-loss-and-grief.

Grief, Loss & Bereavement Resources

WEBSITES
BOOKS
  • How To Go on Living When Someone You Love Dies (Author: Therese A. Rando)
  • On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief Through the Five Stages of Loss (Authors: Elisabeth Kuthler-Ross and David A. Kessler)
  • Healing After Loss: Daily Meditations for Working Through Grief (Author: Martha Hickman)
  • Tear Soup (Author: Pat Schwiebert) 
  • When Bad Things Happen to Good People (Author: Harold Kushner)
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