Grief & Loss
After losing a loved one, there is often a period of grief, mourning, or bereavement. This is a completely normal response to loss. Grief can take on many different forms and can manifest differently for each individual. It is a very complicated emotion which is often accompanied by a variety of complex feelings. Grief typically involves feelings of sadness, as well as guilt, anger, yearning, and regret.
Types of Grieving
- Instrumental Grieving → focuses primarily on problem-solving tasks. Thinking more than feeling; less of an emotional expression and more of an expression of grief through doing something.
- Intuitive Grieving → an expression of grief through affect. A heightened period of emotional feeling and expression.
Stages of Grief
There is a commonly used 5-Stages Model which outlines the stages of grief. However, not everyone experiences each of these stages, and grieving is often not a linear process – individuals may dip in and out, back and forth, within the stages.
- Denial → avoidance, confusion, shock, disbelief
- Anger → frustration, irritability, recognition that things are different now
- Bargaining → desperation, feelings of helplessness
- Depression → sadness, isolation, depressed mood, lacking in energy
- Acceptance → no longer resisting the reality of the loss, moving forward
Grief and Depression
Typical signs of grief can be similar to signs of depression. However, grief is not characterized as a depressive disorder.
|Symptoms of Depression||Similarities||Symptoms of Grief|
|Feelings of worthlessness and self-loathing Feelings of helplessness Prolonged loss of interest in activities one used to enjoy||Feelings of intense sadness and pain Difficulty sleeping, either too much or too little Changes in appetite resulting in weight loss or weight gain||Irritability NumbnessRegretfulness Disbelief or difficulty accepting the loss Seeing or hearing things related to the loss|
Complicated grief occurs in approximately 7% of bereaved individuals. Complicated grief can be quite dependent on the way the loved one’s life was lost, or the relationship to the individual that is grieving. It is characterized by a prolonged period of mourning, during which the symptoms of grief do not fade. Symptoms of “normal” grief tend to fade over time, however, with complicated grief, symptoms persist for much longer and can worsen with time. Experiencing complicated grief can delay the healing process or prevent individuals from healing from the loss of a loved one entirely.
Symptoms of Complicated Grief
- Intense pain and sadness
- Ruminating over the loss
- Problems accepting the loss
- Inability to focus on anything but the loss
- Inability to enjoy life following the loss
- Inability to think back on positive experiences with the loved one
- Difficulty engaging in normal routines
- Isolating and withdrawing from activities one used to enjoy
- Feeling that life is not worth living without the loved one
Complicated Grief Counselling
Counselling to address complicated grief can be effective in both individual and group settings. In counselling, individuals can explore a variety of topics including grief reactions and coping mechanisms for complicated grief symptoms. Counsellors can help individuals process the loss, readjust their routines and redefine their life goals following the loss of a loved one. Counselling can be an instrumental part of the healing process for individuals experiencing complicated grief.
Resources we Recommend for Grief & Loss:
- Grief & Loss: Helping Children & Teens Booklist (parentbooks.ca)
- Books for grieving a suicide | Suggested books | Grief resources (allinahealth.org)
- suicide_loss_toolkit_eng.pdf (mentalhealthcommission.ca)
- Loss, grief and healing | CAMH