Understanding Grief, Loss and Bereavement

Grief is a natural reaction to loss and can affect every part of our lives — physically, mentally, emotionally and socially. Grief reactions range from anger, guilt and anxiety to changes in appetite or behavior.

It’s best not to think of grief as a series of stages. Instead, think of the grieving process as a roller coaster — full of ups and downs, highs and lows. Understanding what is “normal” in grief gives us the knowledge that others have gone through this process and have found healing.

Common reactions include:

  • Physical sensations: hunger, nausea, and breathlessness
  • Behaviors: sleep and appetite disturbances, crying, and social withdrawal
  • Feelings: sadness, loneliness, increased irritability, guilt, fear and relief
  • Thoughts: disbelief, confusion, obsessive thinking about the deceased
  • Spiritual reactions: embracing religious rituals or questioning of faith

Adapted from Grief Counseling and Grief Therapy: A Handbook for the Mental Health Practitioner, second edition, by William Worden (1991).

Children

Grieving the loss of a loved one is difficult, especially for a child. Bereavement counselors provide individual and family counseling to help children who have experienced the death of a sibling, parent, grandparent, friend or other loved one and who may need support or guidance in dealing with the grief.

Resources