Grief / Loss


Grief: loss, mourning

“It takes strength to make your way through grief, to grab hold of life and let it pull you forward.”

~ Patti Davis

Grief – intense sorrow – is a natural response to loss, primarily if caused by someone’s death.

Grief is the emotional suffering you feel when something when you lose someone you love. You may associate grief with the death of a loved one – and this type of loss often causes the most intense anguish. Break-up relationships and divorce also causes people to mourn the loss – even in children. There is no time limit for mourning – as long as you keep on moving through the different stages. Problems arise when people get stuck in one phase.

The five stages of grief

Our reaction to grief is unique – as unique as the person experiencing them. Generally, the following five stages can be identified in grieving people and do not appear in a defined sequence: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Loss. We should view the five stages of grief as learning to live without the person we lost.

The Five Stages of Grief includes denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. In no defined sequence, most of these stages’ broad individual experience occurs when faced with the reality of their impending death or that of a loved one. The reactions to illness, death, and loss are as unique as the person experiencing them.

Denial and Isolation

Often the first reaction to learning of terminal illness or death of a cherished loved one is to deny the situation’s reality. Feelings of being overwhelmed and shock triggers denial. We block out the words and hide from the facts because it is too much to bear. It is a temporary response until reality sets in.


Another emotion that often surfaces is anger. It might be immediate, or it might appear much later. Anger aimed at themselves (guilt-driven) means a person feels he/she could have or should have prevented the death or loss. Or it is aimed at inanimate objects, strangers, friends or family, or our dying or deceased loved one. It occurs despite the person knowing he/she is not to blame.


Often people negotiate with God to instead take them (trading places), or they make promises what they would do if God only spared the dying or critically ill person’s life. Or:” if God can only intervene and stop my parents from getting a divorce.”

It is a normal reaction, and the purpose of it is a need to regain control.

·    If only we had sought medical attention sooner.

·    If only we got a second opinion from another doctor.

·    If only we had tried to be a better person toward them.

·    If only I said no when he asked to go out.

·    If only I had been a better-behaved child – my parents wouldn’t be getting a divorce.

·    If only I did more to save my marriage.

We might be trying to make deals with God to reverse what happened.


The hurt and sadness that comes with loss at first are so deep and so painful that it might feel that it will never end. It seems if there is no way the intense pain will ever go away. The severe pain can cause people to feel they want to give up on life to end the pain. The sadness and crying can take a long time to become softer, but it eventually loses its intensity. You need to allow yourself to be sad and cry – God gave us tears for a reason – to heal. If you allow yourself to experience the emotions, you will eventually move through the stage of sadness and depression. Periods of sadness will space out, and later it will only return on particular days of remembrance or with specific memories. Sometimes all we need is a good cry and a hug

5. Acceptance

Not everyone reaches this stage. Many people never forget and who never truly accept the loss. For others, it might take years to get to acceptance. We might come to terms with the impending death of a loved one, or the death of a person, with more ease if they are in severe pain or suffering as with cancer patients. On the other hand, it might be more difficult to accept losing someone suddenly, for example, in an accident. We go through a grief process to endure a failed romance or relationship.

6. Finding meaning

Recently a sixth stage has been added by David Kessler. After the sudden loss of his son who was 21 years old David wrote a book on the 6th stage of grief, Finding Meaning: The Sixth Stage of Grief. He says the following:

“meaning comes through finding a way to sustain your love for the person after their death while you’re moving forward with your life. Loss is simply what happens to you in life. Meaning is what you make happen.”

He states that healing often only takes place in the sixth stage. A person who lost a family member to suicide might find healing by starting a support group for parents who also lost someone to suicide. Or where a child died of a drug overdose, a person might start a campaign against drug dealers and abuse in their community. The action they take helps heal the wound of loss and gives sense to what happened and value to the deceased person’s life and death.

It is essential to go through the grief process, not around it. Acceptance will only come if you work through it.

Grief & Depression: what is the difference?

Distinguishing between grief and clinical depression isn’t always easy as they share many symptoms, but there are ways to tell the difference. Grief is a multifaceted response. 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. Depression sufferers have constant feelings of emptiness and despair.

Other symptoms that suggest depression, not just grief:

·    An intense, pervasive sense of guilt

·    Thoughts of suicide or a preoccupation with dying

·    Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness

·    Slow speech and body movements

·    Inability to function at work, home, and school

·    Seeing or hearing things that aren’t there – delusions

Anti-depressants: will they help me cope better with grief?

As a general rule, normal grief does not warrant the use of anti-depressants. While medication may relieve some of the symptoms of suffering, it cannot treat the cause, which is the loss itself. Furthermore, by numbing the grieving person’s pain, anti-depressants delay the mourning process.

When time passes, and I am still grieving:

It’s normal to feel sad, numb, or angry following a loss. But as time passes, these emotions should become less intense as you accept the loss and start to move forward. If you aren’t feeling better over time, or your grief is getting worse, it may be a sign that your grief has developed into a more severe problem, such as complicated grief or major depression.

Symptoms of complicated grief :

  • Intense longing and yearning for the deceased
  • Intrusive thoughts or images of your loved one
  • Denial of the death or sense of disbelief
  • Imagining that your loved one is alive
  • Searching for the person in familiar places
  • Avoiding things that remind you of your loved one
  • Extreme anger or bitterness over the loss
  • Feeling that life is empty or meaningless


How to cope with grief

Get support.

Never grief alone. If you are a person who are not comfortable to share your emotions under normal circumstances,  it is important that you do so when you grief. When you share your feelings , your loss will become more bearable. Finding support can come from family, friends, your faith and church, support groups or a therapist or grief counsellor.

Take care of yourself

Grief is stressfull and emotionally draining. You need to take care of yourself physically and emotionally to successfully move through the stages. Helpguide lists the following aspects as guidelines to cope with loss

Face your feelings. Avoiding the pain of grieving will prolong the process. Rather acknowledge the pain. It is okay to cry, be sad and talk about the deceased. Everytime you allow yourself to feel and talk, you lessen the pain.

Be creative. Expressing your feelings in a creative way is a good way to deal with them. You can write down the things you never got to say in a journal or make a scrapbook or photo album to remember the person by.

Look after your physical health. Exercise, eat healthy and get enough sleep. Don’t be tempted to turn to alcohol or drugs to cope with emotional pain. It might numb the pain for a few short hours-  then the pain will be back. Rather deal with it soberly.

It’s not just ok for you to grieve – you have a right to grief.  Let no one tell you to get over yourself and move on. Everyone grieves is differently. There is no specific time to it. Let yourself feel whatever you feel without embarrassment or judgement.

How does one handle special days? Anniversaries, holidays and milestones might make it harder cope with memories. Know that you might have these difficult times and plan ahead with family members how to cope with it.

How do you help a grieving person?

1. Listen with compassion.

It is not what you say, but how well you can listen. Never force a person to talk to you. Rather just ask: ”Do you feel like talking?” Be willing to sit in silence. Let them speak/share. Acknowledge all feelings. The bereaved person should feel free to cry, share and break down without any judgement from you. Offer comfort and support without minimizing the loss.

2. Comments to avoid:
  • I know how you feel.
  • It is part of God’s plan.
  • Look what you can be thankful for.
  • He is in a better place now.
  • What happened is behind you now – it is time to get on with your life.
  • Any statement that begins with ”you should” or ”you will”.
3. Be there for them.

Consistency is the key. Bereaved people often feel they are a burden to everyone. They prefer to hide away and try and work through it on their own. This prolongs grieving. If you can be there for as long as it takes, it will support them immensely. Examples of what you can do:

  • Help with cooked meals/ shopping for groceries/ other errands.
  • Help with funeral arrangements/ accommodating funeral guests.
  • Help with picking up kids from school or taking care of them.
  • Drive them around on errands.
  • Take them for a tea, movie, lunch.
  • Accompany them on a walk and chat.
  • Help take care of pets/ doing laundry and house cleaning.
  • Stay in touch long after the funeral – check in, drop by.
  • Offer extra support on holidays or birthdays.
4. Watch out for warning signs of unresolved grief.

If a grieving person show signs of the following:

  • Struggling to function normally in daily life
  • Extreme focus on death
  • Excessive bitterness, anger or guilt
  • Neglecting personal hygiene
  • Addictive behaviour of some sort
  • Withdrawal from life / inability to find enjoyment from life
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Suicidal thoughts

Questions we can help with:

  • How long does grief last?
  • Will I ever stop crying?
  • I feel like I’m going crazy. Is this normal?
  • What are the signs of grief?
  • How do I know I need help to move on?
  • I feel very angry. How do I deal with it?
  • Have I got the right to inflict my hurt on others?




If you think you might got stuck in grief – please chat with us.

Talk to a facilitator on the LIVE CHAT for help. It is a live text-based chat and you may remain anonymous.


The 5 stages of grief

Take care of yourself as you grieve

Myths and facts about grief and grieving

Seek support for grief and loss


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