Everything You Need To Know About Grief and Loss
Sometimes the pain of grief and loss can be all-consuming—learn the stages of grieving and when it may be time to seek additional help
January 6, 2023
Grief and loss can prove suffocating for those who are impacted by them, especially at first.
Most people have at least some experience with grief, whether first- or second-hand, and understand how loss can affect the person who goes through it. Even those of us who have very little personal experience can still understand the deep toll bereavement takes.
To make matters more difficult, recovering from loss is not a straightforward process.
In her 1969 book “On Death and Dying,” the psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler Ross identified five stages of grief:
While this model has gained popular traction, it is often misunderstood. And mental health care professionals have moved away from it as a primary model for handling grief.
Keep Reading To Learn
- How grieving works and how different losses can affect its severity
- What types of mental health conditions can occur when an individual is grieving
- When grief is “normal,” and when you should consult a mental health care provider
Grief rarely follows a predictable, linear path.
Normal grieving is messy and varies from day to day and person to person. The grieving individual may show a vast range of emotions in a short period of time, and they may feel those emotions strongly for months or even years.
Grief and loss do eventually abate. While the memory of a loved one never leaves completely, those memories lose their sting, allowing the individual to move forward with their life. If they don’t, that’s a sign that the person struggling may need more help.
Even if someone can adjust to the loss in a typical timeframe, grief counseling and other forms of treatment may still prove helpful.
While there is no “right” way to grieve, it can be helpful to have an expert lead you or your loved one through the process of coping with the trauma of losing someone.
It is also important to note that other losses, such as a relationship, job, or home, can cause someone to grieve. While the clinical definition of “grief” refers to the loss of an important person, that’s not the only reason one might feel the keen sorrow of no longer having something treasured.
Many people do not know helpful ways to grieve. This is often because they do not fully understand grief itself. There is no reason to suffer when support is available for you and those who matter to you.
What Is Grief?
Grief is a normal response to loss. Uncomplicated grief—the typical response to a dear one dying—is full of pain, anguish, regret, confusion, and anger.
Not only does grief impact our innermost emotions, because we no longer have what once meant so much, it also changes other aspects of daily living. These can include:
- Day-to-day routines and activities
- Interactions with the people with whom you spend the most time
- The ways your surviving family members relate to one another
- Feelings of stability
- Your ability to care for yourself and others and navigate the daily demands of living
Unfortunately, as normal as grief and loss are, they may also prove debilitating—at least for a short period of time. Feelings of grief are often overwhelming, especially when the loss pertains to a person.
However, other losses can cause sharp, deep feelings of grief. These can include, but are not limited to:
- A devastating medical diagnosis, for oneself or a loved one
- Loss of a pet
- Loss of a job or retirement
- Loss of a home or of financial stability
- A divorce or a breakup
- Serious injury or accident
- Severe trauma, as might result from a refugee situation
The severity of grief often correlates with the severity of the loss. Accordingly, the loss of a child will likely prove more devastating than the loss of a job, but both can be the cause of heartache, misery, depression, and even suicidal thoughts.
How Long Does Grief Last?
Grief is different for every person and every loss. The manner of the death and your personal circumstances can affect how long you experience grief. If you are grieving now, it may be difficult to imagine an end to the pain you are feeling, but it will come.
Overall, acute grief should pass in 12 months for adults and 6 months for children. If it does not, you may be experiencing prolonged grief disorder and should seek help from a professional.