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Managing Grief and Loss

  • Grief appears to be a normal reaction or response of the whole person, physically, emotionally and spiritually to the significant loss of a person, thing or relationship.
  • Grief is usually more intense when it involves the death of a loved one, particularly if it is sudden or unexpected. Similar reactions do occur with other types of loss such as the breakdown of a relationship, loss of a pet, job, lifestyle, or loss of functioning through injury or illness.
  • Grieving appears to be a natural healing process and will run its course eventually. It is therefore essential to go through the process and not avoid what is inevitable.
  • The way that we express grief is strongly influenced by social and cultural factors. In some cultures people are expected and encouraged to show grief, while in other cultures people are expected to stop their display of emotion after a short period of grieving and ‘get on with life’. This expectation can be especially strong for people who have difficulty expressing their feelings.
  • Some people have the view that openly expressing their grief through crying is bad and a sign of weakness. You may be said to be coping well if you show no emotion. In reality this might be far from the truth.
  • The length of time taken to get over a loss will vary from person to person.
  • Time by itself does not always heal so help is sometimes required.



  • Shock/Numbness
  • Denial
  • Anger & Guilt
  • Bargaining (eg if he is healed I will do; pleading)
  • Depression
  • Readjustment & Acceptance


These stages do not necessarily occur sequentially, and therefore individuals may pass backwards and forwards through these various emotional states.

Common symptoms experienced in these stages include:

  • Physical reactions such as chest tightness, headaches, loss of appetite, sleep problems, persistent crying, and avoiding reminders of the loss.
  • Emotional reactions including shock, anger, depression, sadness, hopelessness, acceptance, feeling vulnerable, and survivor guilt.
  • Cognitive reactions such as denial, confusion, preoccupation with the loss, and thoughts that the emotional pain will never cease.
  • Social reactions including resentment toward others, feelings of not belonging, feelings of transformation or change, isolation by friends.



  • Masked grief – it appears the person is coping but may be suppressing their feelings or using substances.
  • Chronic grief – when grief continues for a long time and shows no signs of resolving.
  • Delayed grief – often due to putting grief to one side and not dealing with the emotions.
  • If the grief is unresolved for whatever reason it may present later as depression or at the next loss experienced.
  • Suppressing feelings in general
  • Suppressing feelings that may be judged as ‘taboo’ eg relief, anger
  • Guilt and anger can be prolonged and immobilising
  • Being overly busy so there is no time to feel or acknowledge the loss
  • Using substances to feel numb or nothing
  • Lack of marital, family or community support
  • Difficulty saying goodbye at the time of the death
  • Reluctance to face the reality of the loss
  • Blaming yourself for not taking action which you believe would
    have prevented the loss and/or feeling responsible in some way for the loss




  • Accept the reality of the loss
  • It is not about forgetting but adjusting
  • Recognise that it is a natural healing process and it will pass eventually
  • Allow yourself to have feelings and express them appropriately
  • Establish new social supports or optimise existing social supports
  • Focus on what you have learned from the loss and the grieving process
  • Develop interests and relationships that can help adjust to the loss
  • Visit a Psychologist/Counsellor if grief is problematic

Extra tips for when grief involves death:

  • Focus on the whole life of the person and all your experiences, especially the happy ones, with the person as opposed to focusing on the loss
  • Focus on what you have inherited or learned from the person
  • Consider writing a letter to the person letting them know how much you valued them and saying goodbye if you didn’t have the chance
  • With a therapist or skilled person you might want to reconstruct your relationship with the person


For further information on grief, or to access counselling please contact PRA Consulting on 07 55 26 12 12.