What is Grief?

Grief is a healthy and natural reaction to a significant loss in a person’s life. Grief is both an intellectual and emotional process in which the individual is trying to establish a sense of self in both the physical and psychological sense.

The intellectual and emotional instability is brought about by being caught in between two worlds. The first being the world that the individual is accustomed to and comfortable with; the second world is new, foreign, and does not allow them to maintain the same routines, actions, plans, or goals that were a part of their first world.

Most people associate grief with the loss due to death, however people can grieve for a number of different reasons such as:

  • Brain Injury
  • Neurological disorders
  • Developmental disorders
  • Chronic Illness
  • Transitions due to job loss, moving, financial problems, divorce, or separation

Though grief is important and leads to emotional healing, it can be a prolonged and intensely painful experience, and can result in significant emotional distress. The grief reaction may last for months or years.

Grieving is generally easy to recognize, and symptoms of grief are both physical and emotional. Grieving people are often sad and may sigh, sob, cry out or yearn for what was lost. Shock, disbelief and denial are common, especially immediately following the discovery of the loss. People who are grieving may feel angry or guilty. They may tire easily or feel as though they are always tired. Disturbances in appetite and sleep often occur.

The most important aspect for grieving people is learning to cope with the loss. Individuals who are grieving need to speak with and explain their feelings to others. Most physical complications of grief can be eased by eating properly, exercising and getting plenty of rest.

Individual therapy, family, or play therapies are the most beneficial treatments that help individuals cope successfully with grief.

Different types of grief include:

Nonfinite grief

Grief that occurs as a result of losing hopes, wishes, ideals, expectations. Nonfinite grief is seen in families that have received the diagnosis of a chronic illness or developmental or neurological deficit in a family member. Families that have children diagnosed with autism, Down syndrome, hearing loss, seizure disorder, or other disabilities may experience nonfinite grief. This is a unique grieving process because the individuals are still in the physical presence of their loved one. Each time their child experiences set back or relapses due to illness, the family goes through the grieving process. They are also reminded of the loss of their life each time they see another child or individual passing through different life stages such as entering school, playing sports, graduation, prom, marriage, etc. It is important for individuals and families to seek therapy to help them learn to grieve in a way that will unite their family and make each of them stronger.

Anticipatory grief

Grief that begins before (in anticipation of) the loss, such as the initiation of divorce proceedings or when a loved one is diagnosed with a terminal illness.

Anniversary reactions

Grief responses that occur following reminders of the loss, such as on anniversaries, holidays or other special days throughout the year. These can last for days or weeks, and are not necessarily a setback in the grieving process.