What is grief?

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A crucial step in managing grief is understanding what grief is and what grief can be.

Grief is more than just sadness, it is the process of reacting to loss.

People feel and express their grief in very different ways.

A person's relationship with the deceased or whether or not the death was expected, will not guide how they will process their grief.

Grief can relate to more than just the loss of a person, but the loss of other things associated with that person. This is called secondary grief.

The wide variety of feelings that may be expressed is a normal part of the grieving process and are a natural expression of loss.

Grief is not just about emotions, it may show up in physical or behavioral changes.

Because there are no right or wrong ways to grieve, feelings of grief may reveal themselves in any order, and may even alternate over time; there are no steps or phases to follow linearly.

Though the intensity of any feeling may diminish with time, there is no "normal" time period for someone to grieve.

Grief is incredibly personal; take as long as is needed, even if that is months or years, so long as it does not negatively impact daily life of you and those around you.

Though not easy to accomplish, it's best to explore and investigate these feelings, rather than judge or avoid them.

If grief is too difficult to manage and becomes overwhelming, then it's important to seek help, either through healthy coping behaviors, social support, or professional services.

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Some of the more common feelings, emotions and physical manifestations of grief include, but are not limited to:

  • Shock
  • Confusion
  • Disbelief
  • Denial
  • Sadness
  • Depression
  • Anger or general irritability
  • Hypersensitivity
  • Numbness
  • Guilt

Grief can also manifest itself physically. It may be important to seek support if you feel any of the following:

  • Forgetfulness or difficulty focusing
  • Withdrawn or disconnected
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lack of energy
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Overwhelmed / unable to complete tasks
  • Fear or anxiety
  • Vivid dreams
  • General apathy
  • Weight gain/loss
  • Manic behavior

When an immediate family member passes away, this causes primary loss.

A secondary loss, or secondary grief, has to do with the changes that occur in someone’s life due to the deceased’s passing.

This can include changes in living situations, friendships, family relationships, school, work, routine, or lifestyle.

For example, holidays can be very difficult after a loss, especially if the holiday was usually celebrated with the deceased.

Providers to Contact


Find a grief group near you

Grief groups are support groups for people grieving the death of a loved one. They can provide emotional support and practical advice for dealing with grief. They can also be a place to share stories and connect with others going through a similar experience.

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Find a therapist near you

A grief therapist is a mental health professional who specializes in helping people deal with grief. They can provide support and guidance to help you cope with loss and process emotions.

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Find a psychologist near you

Psychologists are mental health professionals who specialize in human behavior. They can help people cope with mental health disorders, relationship problems, and stress. They can also provide psychological testing and counseling services.

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