Grief & Loss

Psychological strategies and counselling

ABOUT GRIEF

Grief is a natural and normal emotion. Bereavement refers to the process of recovering from the death of a loved one, whereas grief is a reaction to any form of loss.

Grief is our response to the loss of a loved one or by the loss of something we regard as precious to us. Grief is a normal, natural and inevitable response to loss, and it can affect every part of our life, including our thoughts, behaviours, beliefs, feelings, physical health and our relationships with others.

There is no “right way” to grieve, and no way to predict how long the period of grieving will last – or should last. Adapting to a significant loss can vary dramatically from one person to another, depending on their background and their beliefs. Their relationship to what was lost and other factors may also play a key role.

Both bereavement and grief encompass a range of feelings from deep sadness to anger, helplessness, confusion, relief and regret. Grieving behaviors can include crying as well as laughter, there is no correct way to behave. Some people find comfort in the company of others, whereas others prefer to be alone with their feelings, and may engage silently in activities like cleaning, writing, or exercising.

Some thoughts and behaviors after a loss can be more helpful or safe than others, and this is where therapy can help. Grief can be complicated by other conditions – most notably depression – and by the type of relationship shared. Adjusting to loss may require developing new routines, envisioning a different future, or building a new sense of identity, which can take some time.

When grief persists

Although there is no prescribed length of time for grief, and loss may always be felt, when grief interferes with life, it may be time to seek help.

Normal symptoms of loss can mimic those of depression, but these symptoms will often pass within two months of the loss.
For those who may be vulnerable to depression, grief has the potential to precipitate a depressive episode, and for those who already experience depression, the grief process can be prolonged and worsened by the depression.

What distinguishes grief from depression is that the feelings of grief are specifically related to a loss or death, whereas depression is characterised by a general sense of worthlessness, despair, and lack of joy.

When symptoms are interfering with life, interminable without improvement, and last for at least one year or more complicated grief may be implicated.

Prolonged symptoms may include:

  • Intense sadness
  • Preoccupation with the loss
  • Longing or yearning
  • Feelings of emptiness or meaninglessness
  • Difficulty engaging in happy memories
  • Avoidance of reminders of the loss
  • Lack of desire in pursuing personal interests
  • Bitterness or anger

How to support someone who has experienced loss

Loneliness and isolation can be a common feeling after a loss, and it can be helpful to increase emotional support. Simply being there to help out, to listen, or to share stories can be helpful. Acknowledge the difficult feelings such as anger, regret or relief.

Encourage self-compassion – it is important to take time for yourself when grieving, and do things that make you happy, such as taking a long hot bath or going for a walk.

Excessive alcohol or drug use during the grieving process is unhelpful, as it can lead to the suppression of feelings, or acting out of anger.

If you or a loved one are experiencing difficulty coping with loss, there are a number of therapies that can help. Our warm, friendly and compassionate psychologists can work with you to help you through this difficult time.