Life is a precious gift that often seems incapable of being taken away until the day the unthinkable happens: the death of a loved one. When a person experiences a loss, they often feel completely shocked. Whether the loss was expected or unexpected, emotions quickly arise. Everyone grieves in their own way and there is no “right” way to do so, although there are healthy ways to cope. Regardless of the circumstances, the emotions one will experience will be some of the most difficult to overcome. One moment a person may feel angry, guilty and shocked and the next they may be depressed or in denial. These emotions are all part of the stages of grief. The stages may differ for each person and the amount of time it takes to accept the loss will also differ for each person but for every step of the healing process, counseling and support groups with people in the same stages are available to everyone.
Grief and Bereavement Defined
Grief is defined as a feeling of a deep distress or mental anguish usually caused by a loss, usually a death, while bereavement is defined as the period and process of mourning following a death. Grief is a mentally stressful state of mind, though it is not a mental illness or disorder. It is a normal reaction that almost everyone will experience at some point within their lifetime. People may grieve or feel differently than others during bereavement, this is also normal. No two people will react in exactly the same manner, even if they are both experiencing the loss of the same person. Some general symptoms of grief include changes in appetite, tightness in the throat, fatigue, anxiety, sadness, feelings of abandonment, becoming withdrawn from social situations or displaying a lack of interest in everyday life. All of these symptoms are expected but will gradually fade as a person works through the stages of grief.
- What is Grief: A look at grief and mourning.
- Grief and Loss: Detailed information on what grief is and the process.
- What is Grief?: A handout on the symptoms and signs that someone is suffering from grief.
- Grief: An in-depth explanation of the feelings that grief may cause.
- Grief in Family Context: What grief is and can mean for a family.
- Bereavement and Grief: Characteristics of the two and how to recognize them.
- What is Grief? What is Healing?: A look into what defines grief and what defines healing and how to learn to work through both.
Types of Grief
The feeling of grief is a reaction to a loss. The loss is not always the loss of a loved one although this is the most recognizable form. A person may also grieve after a miscarriage, after the death of a pet, a relationship or friendship comes to an end, finances or one’s health becomes unstable, a job is lost, a feeling of safety is lost after a traumatic event, or even after the loss of a dream. A significant loss, whatever the situation may be, will result in significant grief.
- Types of Bereavement: There are a lot of similarities in people who loss someone they love, although not all types of bereavement are the same.
- Grief and Mourning: A guide to knowing what is “normal” grief and what is an abnormal form of grief that may require professional attention.
- Grief and Bereavement Care: Recognizing the types of grief and bereavement and learning to identify the best approach to take when caring for someone in each category.
- Types of Losses: The most common types of losses that can leave a person feeling immense grief.
- Types of Grief: Normal and abnormal types and complications of grief.
- Unresolved and Complicated Grief: Two very common types of grief that can affect a person from moving on with their life if help is not found.
Stages of Grief
There are five stages of grief that a person may experience during the bereavement phase. The first emotion a person may experience is denial. People in this phase are in shock and do not believe the loss is actually occurring. They may completely ignore the situation or pretend that nothing has changed during this phase. Second, is the phase of anger. Those that are feeling angry may just want to know why the loss occurred. They are hurt and are looking for someone, or something to blame their pain on. The third phase of grief is known as the ‘bargaining’ stage. In this stage, people often feel guilty. They believe that if they do something differently, the loss may go away. Often they will beg, as if they believe that their behavior can change the inevitable circumstances that their loved one is gone. In the fourth stage, people become extremely depressed. During the depression phase, the loss is sinking in and the sufferer is realizing that there is nothing that can be done to change what has happened. This phase often lasts the longest and can cause many people to become withdrawn from other loved ones, to the point that they will refuse any help or refuse to talk about what they are feeling. Finally, the fifth step is acceptance. In this stage of grief, the person realizes that they cannot change what has happened and they are okay with that. They will still feel upset but will begin to heal and make peace with the realization that they have suffered a loss. Not everyone will experience the five stages of grief in this particular order, or at all for that matter. This is okay too; it will not affect the healing process.
- Stages of Grief: A description of the many levels of emotions a person will experience when dealing with grief.
- Normal Types of Grief: The normal types of grief that a person may deal with and a look at the stages of the healing process.
- Abandonment: Types of grief that may leave a person with a sense of abandonment.
- The Five Stages of Loss and Grief: A resource that tells about each of the five stages and explains that while they are all normal, they are not all required in order to reach the final healing process.
- (PDF) The Stages of Grief: An extended version of the stages of grief.
- The Three Most Common Stages of Grief: A look at the most commonly experienced stages of the five stages of grief.
- The 5-or 7- Stages of Grief and Loss: A discussion of the grieving cycle and the grieving process.
The best way to begin to cope with grief is to seek support. This can mean talking to a family member, friend or even reaching out to faith. It is important to remember to allow others in to lessen feelings of abandonment that are commonly associated with grief. It is also important to remember that although grief is overwhelming, one must continue to care for themselves. This means eating healthy, exercising as usual and attempting to carry on with life. This may not be easy at first but it is vital to regain some normalcy in life again while coping with grief.
- Coping with Grief and Loss: Helpful information about healthy ways to cope with a loss.
- Managing Grief and Grieving: Strategies for managing loss and grieving in a healthy way are discussed.
- Helping Children Cope: Ways to help children understand and cope with death or loss of a loved one.
- Ten Strategies for Coping with Grief: Ten simple self-help strategies to begin the healing process after a loss.
- Dealing with Sorrow: Coping strategies that help one recognize and accept their feelings of sorrow.
- Healthy Coping Strategies: Coping strategies that are healthy for both parents and children when a loss in the family is suffered.
- Grief and Trauma Coping Strategies: A resource that teaches other people how to react and assist a person who is going through a loss or recovering from trauma.
Although the person that is lost will never be forgotten and there will always be certain sadness over the loss, after a while the pain should lessen and normal life should resume. If the grief is becoming a struggle that does not go away after a period of time, or gradually becomes worse, professional help may be required. Professional help should be contacted if a person falls into a deep depression or continually refuses to accept that their loved one is gone after a realistic amount of time has passed. Behaviors such as acting as if the loved one is still alive or completely avoiding anything associated with that person, may be a serious problem known as “complicated grief”. Complicated grief keeps withholds a person from returning to their daily life because they are so distracted by the loss of their loved one. Complicated grief is a problem that will not go away on its own and requires professional attention to assist with the healing process. Counseling can provide a non-judgmental arena where a person can receive the help they need to sort through their emotions with guidance and begin to move on with their life.
- Grief Counseling for Children: Signs that your child may need grief counseling.
- Counseling For Loss: Signs of when the level of grief comes to a point when professional help is needed.
- Grief Counseling Techniques for Children: Children may require a special technique in order to help them understand exactly what death means and how they can begin to heal from a loss.
- Grief Counseling Resource Guide: A guide to finding helpful grief counseling.
- Praise for Grief Counseling and Grief Therapy: Various techniques that are used within grief counseling to help a person with their grief.
- Grief, Loss and Bereavement: A look at when a therapist may be helpful to a person in mourning.
- Bereavement Counseling and the Process of Grief: Key ideas that will be used in professional counseling to assist a person in making peace with their loss.
- Bereavement: Normal behaviors after loss and behaviors that may be a sign that additional help is needed are discussed.
There are support groups all over the country for people that are dealing with grief. Support groups provide an outlet for people to share their stories of loss. Many times people are struggling with the same emotions and it helps to have someone to talk to that understands exactly what is being experienced.
- Amanda the Panda: A support group geared towards healing families with children after a loss.
- Grief Share: A resource to help locate a grief support group.
- Survivors of Suicide: A support group for those dealing with the pain of suicide.
- Suicide Bereavement Support Group: A support group where all members are coping with one of the most difficult and heart-breaking losses.
- Cancer Support Group: Support groups for during the illness, during recovery or after the loss of a family member are available for those affected by cancer.
- Cancer Support Community: An entire community that is sympathetic and understanding to all of the feelings associated with suffering a loss due to cancer.
- Kara Grief: A support group that works specifically with children and teenagers to help them understand their loss.
- Loss of a Child: A list of supportive groups where people can relate to the loss of a child.
- The Healing Place: Grief support groups for teenagers.
- Center for Infant and Child Loss: Supportive groups with people whom understand are share stories of losses involving miscarriages, stillborn, SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) and the early death of children.