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What You Need To Know About Grief

Anytime a person or group loses something meaningful, grief can ensue. Grief is a complex and natural response to loss. While it often elicits a range of emotions, grief is more than an emotional reaction; in addition to affecting the way we feel, grief influences the way we think, the way our body functions, the way we interact with others, and how we see ourself in the world.

Some common types of grief include the death of a loved one, the ending of a significant relationship, job loss, loss due to theft, violence, or a natural disaster; loss of independence in the form of a disability or health condition, loss of potential, loss of security—physical or financial, loss of a pregnancy or infertility, loss of a pet, a move to a new city, major life transitions, a crisis of faith or existential crisis.

Despite misconceptions, the experience of grief and the time it takes to heal and move forward are subjective—meaning, there is no “normal” timetable for which to do it. How we accomplish it depends solely on our individual makeup and the nature of the loss. This said, there are common symptoms of grief:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty completing tasks
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Loss of appetite
  • Increase in appetite
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Aches and pains
  • Nightmares
  • Apathy
  • Anger
  • Guilt
  • Despair, intense sadness, or tears when a memory is triggered
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Numbness
  • Restlessness
  • Emptiness
  • Withdrawal from others
  • Loneliness, or a sense of separateness from others
  • Loss of life’s meaning

It is not uncommon to experience many or even all of these symptoms as you work through the grieving process. Sometimes your reactions may be so overwhelming that you fear you’re coming apart. Though this is very unlikely, it is important to monitor their frequency, intensity, and duration. If symptoms last for more than a couple of weeks, it may be time to see your physician or seek professional help.

In the wake of meaningful loss, we cannot recreate our lives going backward. We can only reclaim our life going forward. There is no getting around grief. The path to peace—and health—is through it.



For more information on the grieving process and how to help yourself or someone in grief, below are a few great resources:

  • How to go on living when someone you love dies. Rando, T.A. (1991).
  • Understanding your grief: Ten essential touchstones for finding hope and healing your heart. Wolfelt, A.D. (2004).
  • When there are no words: Finding your way to cope with loss and grief. Walton, C. (1996).
  • Stirred Not Shaken: How To Be Happy Healthy And Whole In Tough Times. DeMarco, M. (2009).
  • How to mend your broken heart: Overcome emotional pain at the end of a relationship. McKenna, P. & Wilbourn, H. (2005).
  • I wasn’t ready to say goodbye: Surviving, coping, and healing after the death of a loved one. Noel, B. & Blair, P.D. (2000).
  • Men don’t cry. . .women do. Martin, T.L. & Doka, K.J. (1999).
  • Ambiguous loss. Goss, P. (1998).
  • No time to say goodbye: Surviving the suicide of a loved one. Fine, C. (1997).
  • Recovering from the loss of a sibling. Donnelly, K.F. & Toomey, M. (2000).
  • When parents die. Myers, E. (1997).
  • Never too young to know: Death in children’s lives. Silverman, P.R. (2000).


1) Bonanno, George A. (2004). “Loss, Trauma, and Human Resilience: Have We Underestimated the Human Capacity to Thrive After Extremely Aversive Events?”. American Psychologist 59 (1): 20–8. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.59.1.20. PMID 14736317.

2) Shear, K. (2005). “Treatment of Complicated Grief: A Randomized Controlled Trial”.JAMA: the Journal of the American Medical Association 293 (21): 2601. doi:10.1001/jama.293.21.2601.

3) Bunch, J.; Barraclough, B.; Nelson, B.; Sainsbury, P. (1971). “Suicide following bereavement of parents”. Social Psychiatry 6 (4): 193. doi:10.1007/BF00578368.

4) “A Comprehensive Guide To Grief And Bereavement.”

5) “Healthy Grieving.” University of Washington.

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