Grief and loss

What are grief and loss?

Grief is a natural response to loss. It might be the loss of a loved one, relationship, miscarriage, pet, job or way of life. Other experiences of loss may be due to children leaving home, infertility and separation from friends and family. The more significant the loss, the more intense the grief is likely to be.

Grief is expressed in many ways and it can affect every part of your life; your emotions, thoughts and behaviour, beliefs, physical health, your sense of self and identity, and your relationships with others. Grief can leave you feeling sad, angry, anxious, shocked, regretful, relieved, overwhelmed, isolated, irritable or numb.

Grief has no set pattern. Everyone experiences grief differently. Some people may grieve for weeks and months, while others may describe their grief lasting for years. Through the process of grief however you begin to create new experiences and habits that work around your loss.

Getting through grief and loss

Grief is something that takes time to work through. While everyone finds their own way to grieve it is important to have the support of friends and family or someone else, and to talk about your loss when you need to.

What you can do to help yourself

  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help. 
  • Talk to friends and family about how you are feeling, or consider joining a support group. 
  • Take care of your physical health. Grieving can be exhausting so it is important to eat a healthy diet, exercise and sleep. 
  • Manage stress – lighten your load by asking friends, family members or work colleagues to help you with some chores or commitments. Relaxation and gentle exercise can be helpful.
  • Do things you enjoy, even if you don’t really feel like doing them.

How to help a person who is experiencing grief and loss

Many people do not know what to say or do when trying to comfort someone who is grieving. However, often it is the simple offer of love and support that is the most important.

  • Ask how they are feeling. Each day can be different for someone who is grieving; take the time to listen and understand what they are going through.  
  • Talk about everyday life too. Their loss and grief does not have to be the focus of all your conversations. 
  • Ask them how you can help. A few home cooked meals, doing the shopping, or perhaps offering to go walking or do something enjoyable with them can all help someone through their grief. 
  • Encourage them to get help if their grief does not seem to be easing over time.

Is it depression?

Grief and depression are quite different but they can appear similar as they can both lead to feelings of intense sadness, insomnia, poor appetite and weight loss. Depression stands out from grief as being more persistent, with constant feelings of emptiness and despair and a difficulty feeling pleasure or joy.

If you notice that depression symptoms continue, or your grief begins to get in the way of how you live, work, share relationships or live day-to-day then you it is important to get support or professional help.