What is grief?

Grief is a universal experience. It is a human response to the loss of someone we love and value. However, it can also be a very challenging experience.


At a glance
  • Grief is a process that each person experiences in a unique way.
  • We need to give ourselves and others permission to grieve and be patient when the process seems to be taking longer than we expect.
  • Grief is expressed in many ways and there is no specific timeline for grief.
  • Over time however the pain should get less.

It can be helpful to recognise that grief is a process and that each person experiences grief in a unique way. The following factors may influence how grief is experienced:

  • relationship with the person who died
  • the circumstances surrounding their death
  • existing coping strategies and how emotional distress has been managed in the past
  • available support networks.

The experience of grief can sometimes be very intense. Some people feel as though they are 'going mad' as grief affects the whole of our being and can leave us feeling out of control and overwhelmed. We need to give ourselves and others permission to grieve and be patient when the process seems to be taking what we consider to be a long time.

Grief is expressed in many ways and there is no specific timeline for the experience. Most people become aware that life will never be the same as it was and in time learn to integrate the reality of the loss into their lives. Eventually, the loved one who died can become part of life in a new way.

Over time the pain should get less. Most people start to recognise they are having more frequent and longer times when they feel more energy and hope. They may notice their memories are not as painful for as long, although this pain may never go away altogether.

Seeking out professional assistance can be helpful for some people.

Some of the common responses to grief are:

Behavioural

Isolation, social withdrawal, intolerance of others, irritability, loss of interest in others, tearfulness, restlessness.

Cognitive

Confusion, forgetfulness, racing mind, poor concentration, difficulty in making decisions, a sense of unreality, repeated disturbing imagery.

Emotional

Shock, disbelief, sadness, distress, shame, blame, numbness, anxiety, guilt, fear, regret, anger, helplessness, suicidal.

Physical

Change in appetite, change in sleeping, tiredness, headaches, colds.

Spiritual

Loss of meaning, loss of direction, questioning faith/beliefs, searching for understanding, yearning.

Crisis support

If you are in an emergency, or at immediate risk of harm to yourself or others, please contact emergency services on 000. Other services include: