Grief is a strong feeling that can feel overwhelming at times for some people. Its effects can
bring up emotions such as anger, sadness, shock, denial, or other unexpected emotions.
The loss of someone close to you is the most common cause of grief, but it is not the only one. You can experience grief for anything that is important to you. For example, you can mourn moving away from your childhood home, the loss of a pet, changes in health, changing jobs, the ending of an important relationship, or losing a friendship. Grief is the feeling of pain caused by someone’s or something’s absence (Mayo Clinic, 2016; PDQ Supportive and Palliative Care Editorial Board, 2022).
Coping With Grief
There is no right or wrong way of coping with grief as it is an individual experience. Some ways to cope include:
Acknowledging the emotion by naming your feelings as grief.
Validating your feelings without judgement.
Experiencing and processing the pain of your grief.
Seeking support and leaning on family, friends, and professionals (Smith, Robinson, & Segal, 2023).
Stages of Grief
In 1969, psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross introduced the “five stages of grief,” and pointed out that grief is not linear. Grief can be described as a journey that is unpredictable and can be difficult to navigate (Centre for Innovation in Campus Mental Health, 2020).
These stages include:
Denial, where there are feelings of fear, shock, or emotional numbness. Feelings of avoidance about having conversations about grief can be common in this stage.
Anger, which can last for days, weeks, months, or longer.
Bargaining, when you are trying to find meaning in the loss and reaching out to others to discuss it. You may have thoughts about how you could have done things differently.
Depression, where periods of deep sadness, crying, feeling empty, and regret are common. These emotions can come in waves. Difficulty sleeping and a poor appetite may occur.
Acceptance is the hardest stage and feels like the most impossible one because of the unknowns of this feeling of loss, but acceptance is possible. This stage is where you begin to come to terms with the loss. This does not necessarily mean you feel happy or uplifted. It doesn’t mean you’ve moved past the grief or loss. However, it does mean that you’ve accepted that the loss happened and have come to understand what it means in your life now. You can see a way to there being more good days than bad, but there will still be bad days, and that’s okay (Smith, Robinson, & Segal, 2023).
It is important to remember that not everyone will go through all these stages of grief. As well, an individual may also experience the stages at different times and in different orders.
As mental health professionals, we know grief is a universal and a personal experience and
Centre for Innovation in Campus Mental Health. (2020). Loss and grief during the COVID-19
Mayo Clinic. (2016, October 19). What is grief? [Article 20057093]. Mayo Foundation for
Medical Education and Research. https://www.mayoclinic.org/patient-visitor-guide/support-
PDQ Supportive and Palliative Care Editorial Board. (2022, October 18). Grief, bereavement, and coping with loss (PDQ): Health professional version. National Library of Medicine Bookshelf. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK66052/
Smith, M. A., Robinson, L., & Segal, J. (2023, February 24). Coping with grief and loss.