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Grief is a topic that covers many kinds of losses and an almost infinite range of emotions; there isn’t a single grief definition that covers it all.

“Grief is the normal and natural emotional reaction

to loss or change of any kind."

“Grief is the conflicting feelings caused by the end of or

change in a familiar pattern of behaviour.”

“Grief is the feeling of reaching out for someone who had been

there for me at one time, only to discover that

I can’t go to them for help or comfort anymore.”

What is Grief

What is grief

Grief is both a feeling and a process that people typically go through after a death, loss or significant change. Grieving is a natural, healthy response to loss and may include:

  • Strong feelings such as shock, anger, resentment, sadness, guilt, relief, despair

  • Thinking a lot about the person who is no longer in your life; reflecting on your relationship to them and worrying what life will be like without them

  • Physical responses like an upset stomach, muscle tension, crying, changes to sleeping or eating patterns, exhaustion, or difficulty concentrating

  • A search for meaning which could include turning to religion for strength, questioning traditional beliefs, or looking for new ways of understanding life and death.

Potential Causes

Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe have insightful research that led to the Holmes-Rahe Stress Scale. The scale details the 43 life events that are most liable to create feelings of grief.

Potential Causes
  • Death of a close friend

  • Change to different line of work

  • Change in frequency of arguments

  • Major mortgage

  • Foreclosure of mortgage or loan

  • Change in responsibilities at work

  • Child leaving home

  • Trouble with in-laws

  • Outstanding personal achievement

  • Spouse starts or stops work

  • Begin or end school

  • Change in living conditions

  • Revision of personal habits

  • Trouble with boss

  • Death of a spouse

  • Divorce

  • Marital separation

  • Imprisonment

  • Death of a close family member

  • Personal injury or illness

  • Marriage

  • Dismissal from work

  • Marital reconciliation

  • Retirement

  • Change in health of family member

  • Pregnancy

  • Sexual difficulties

  • Gain a new family member

  • Business readjustment

  • Change in financial state

  • Change in working hours or conditions

  • Change in residence

  • Change in schools

  • Change in recreation

  • Change in church activities

  • Change in social activities

  • Minor mortgage or loan

  • Change in sleeping habits

  • Change in number of family reunions

  • Change in eating habits

  • Vacation

  • Christmas

  • Minor violation of law

  • Loss of Trust, Loss of Approval, Loss of Safety and Loss of Control of my body


Managing Feelings of Loss and Grief

Validate your feelings


  • You have a right to feel the way you do. Feelings are natural. Even though others may not understand your feelings or fail to empathize with you, it is the most important for you to empathize with yourself. Give yourself permission to process, naturally, the loss you have experienced.


 Reach out


  • No matter how small it may be, build a support network. Whether it is that one special friend who can listen without judgement

  • It's important for you to have someone to turn to if you need a shoulder to cry on or a new outlook in order to get you through a rough moment. 


Managing feelings



There are no right or wrong ways to grieve, but some ways may be more helpful than others.

Here are some constructive ideas to help coming to terms with a significant loss:

  • Own your feelings. It’s ok to feel whatever you’re feeling, to be confused or angry or sad. It’s ok to laugh and to cry. Sometimes you might even feel relief that some difficult or painful part of life has ended. Accept your feelings. They may change along the way. With time, the difficult feelings will ease.

  • Express your feelings. There may be both positive and negative feelings and memories. Find ways to express them. Try to pull them apart and understand them. Journaling, creative writing, drawing or singing may help you to get your feelings out.

  • Share your feelings. Don’t go through this alone. Talk to someone you trust. Let them know how you’re feeling. Find help too by connecting with others who’ve experienced the loss. Sharing your grief with others at ceremonies like funerals is one way to help you make sense of your loss and move forward.

  • Find humor in life. Enjoy a laugh as you normally would. Finding humour in life and being able to laugh can help get you through difficult times. Laughter can break the pain and help with healing. It is good for body and mind.

  • Find meaning. For example, what can you learn from this experience? Can you find some good in this bad situation? What did the deceased mean to you? Has this experience left you with new insights or perceptions about yourself or about life? Have you learned something new about others?

  • Take care of yourself. Coming to terms with loss is stressful. Sleeping and eating right can help you feel better. Encourage a regular sleep routine. Yoga or deep breathing can help you relax. Making healthy food choices and eating at regular times will help too. And don’t forget to be kind to yourself, and do things you enjoy doing.

  • Move forward. Bit by bit you’ll be able to feel more like yourself, living in the present, planning for the future, and focusing less on your loss. Getting to the other side of grief does not mean you’ve forgotten your loved one. But you will be able to remember them in ways that allow you to move on with your life.

Signs of Unresolved Grief

Although many sufferers try to pretend that they are “over it” for various reasons, the following are some of the tell-tale signs that someone is grieving:

  • Preoccupation with sad or painful memories

  • Refusal to talk about the loss at all

  • Increase in alcohol, food, drug, or cigarette usage. Antisocial behavior

  • Overindulge in hobbies, work, or exercise activities

  • Lack of energy

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Isolation from friends and family

Unresolved grief

When to Seek Help

Sometimes grief is so intense and overwhelming, or lasts so long, that extra help may be needed to move through it. Signs that it is time to seek some help include:


  • Not feeling better after several months of grieving

  • Inability to perform daily activities

  • Difficulty with, or lack of interest in, school work

  • Feeling depressed

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Changes to sleeping or eating patterns

  • Lack of interest in regular social activities

  • Deteriorating relationships with family or friends

  • Substance use, self-harming behaviours or other risk-taking

  • Acting “strong” on the outside, while denying pain inside

  • Thoughts about suicide.

When to seek help

Support groups, Conselling and Grief specialist are just some of a number of the options for help you may have as someone stricken with grief. Visit your local Victim Services to see all your options




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