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What is grief?

Grief is a strong, sometimes overwhelming emotion for people, regardless of whether their sadness stems from the loss of a loved one or from a terminal diagnosis they or someone they love have received.

They might find themselves feeling numb and removed from daily life, unable to carry on with regular duties while saddled with their sense of loss.

Grief is the natural reaction to loss. Grief is both a universal and a personal experience. Individual experiences of grief vary and are influenced by the nature of the loss. Some examples of loss include the death of a loved one, the ending of an important relationship, job loss, loss through theft or the loss of independence through disability.

Experts advise those grieving to realize they can't control the process and to prepare for varying stages of grief. Understanding why they're suffering can help, as can talking to others and trying to resolve issues that cause significant emotional pain, such as feeling guilty for a loved one's death.

Mourning can last for months or years. Generally, pain is tempered as time passes and as the bereaved adapts to life without a loved one, to the news of a terminal diagnosis or to the realization that someone they love may die.

If you're uncertain about whether your grieving process is normal, consult your healthcare professional. Outside help is sometimes beneficial to people trying to recover and adjust to a death or diagnosis of a terminal illness.


MYTH: The pain will go away faster if you ignore it.

FACT: Trying to ignore your pain or keep it from surfacing will only make it worse in the long run. For real healing, it is necessary to face your grief and actively deal with it.

MYTH: It’s important to “be strong” in the face of loss.

FACT: Feeling sad, frightened, or lonely is a normal reaction to loss. Crying doesn’t mean you are weak. You don’t need to “protect” your family or friends by putting on a brave front. Showing your true feelings can help them and you.

MYTH: If you don’t cry, it means you aren’t sorry about the loss.

FACT: Crying is a normal response to sadness, but it’s not the only one. Those who don’t cry may feel the pain just as deeply as others. They may simply have other ways of showing it.

MYTH: Grief should last about a year.​

FACT: There is no specific time frame for grieving. How long it takes differs from person to person.

MYTH: Moving on with your life means forgetting about your loss.

FACT: Moving on means you've accepted your loss—but that's not the same as forgetting. You can move on with your life and keep the memory of someone or something you lost as an important part of you. In fact, as we move through life, these memories can become more and more integral to defining the people we are.


In 1969, psychiatrist, Dr Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, introduced what became known as the “five stages of grief.” These stages of grief were based on her studies of the feelings of patients facing a terminal illness, but many people have generalized them to other types of negative life changes and losses, such as the death of a loved one or a break-up. The stages are; denial, anger, negotiation, depression and finally acceptance. Each of these stages may indicate a period of mourning, but not all of them have to be experienced. Other common symptoms include shock, guilt, anxiety, and physical symptoms. Coping with death and loss, whether expected or unexpected, is daunting for most people. Fortunately, there are many resources available to support the bereaved. 

There are many forms of loss but in all cases the loss that a person experiences triggers an emotion called grief. It is therefore important to first recognize and identify the loss and then to process this loss through talk therapy. For example, you may suddenly start arguing with people, or you may prefer to be alone or drink more, which may be symptoms of grief.

There are various forms of loss, most often occurring in different phases of one's life. Change is the most common form of loss, instigating the fear of the unknown.​

Foggy Forest
Thinking Man on Couch
Boys Running

Change-related losses:

  • Growing up

  • Marriage

  • Evolution of one's children / raise children/children leave us

  • Retirement

  • Divorce

Tangible losses:

  • Loss of a part of the body

  • Loss of a house

  • Loss of business, professional loss

Symbolic losses:

  • Loss of a dream

  • Losing childhood/ what we didn't have as a child

What are the reactions and signs when we mourn?


  • Hear and see the person.

  • Dreaming of the person

  • Look out for the person

  • Forgetfulness

  • Sleep problems

  • Eating problems

  • Mood swings

  • Total emptiness

  • Shock, numbness

 Questions the mourner asks:


  • How could this person do this to me?

  • Why didn't I do this or that, then the person would still be here ....... feelings of guilt?

  • How do I ever cope with it ............. how do I ever finish it?

  • Why does nobody understand my pain and my frustration?


Grieving people often try to process their grief without the help of a trained counsellor and therefore have negative experiences with well-intentioned advice from friends and acquaintances such as


  • Depression is not part of grief.

  • The absence of stress in the mourner is problematic.

  • To come to terms with one's losses or changes, the victim has to go through all phases of grief and loss to enable oneself to move on with their own life as quickly as possible.

Professional consultation is vital in overcoming and coming to terms with one's grief and losses so he or she can move on, empowering oneself to take on the next stages of life, which can only be enabled through change.


Regardless of the circumstances, losing a friend or loved one is a painful and challenging experience. Grief is the deep feeling of loss that arises when a relationship is ended by death, moving, separation or some other factor. The term grief describes the grief process, it refers to the length of time a person experiences grief and tries to live with the loss.

This period of grief can pass quickly or last for several months or years. While we mourn we are often accompanied by feelings of isolation and this although this process of grief is actually something natural and ordinary, something that almost everyone experiences at some point in life, we often suffer alone and without the necessary support from fellow human beings.

Feeling burnt out or depressed? Schedule a no-commitment 30-minute therapy session to discover if my style of therapy is right for you. 

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