Understanding Grief


Symptoms of Grief

Grief is expressed physically, emotionally, socially, and spiritually.

  • Physical symptoms of grief can include crying and sighing, headaches,  loss of appetite, eating for comfort, sleep difficulties, weakness, fatigue, feelings of heaviness, aches, pains, difficulty remembering, inability to focus, feeling like you're in a fog and other stress-related symptoms and ailments.
  • Emotional expressions of grief include feelings of sadness.. But feelings of worry, anxiety, frustration, anger, or guilt are also normal.
  • Social expressions of grief may include feeling detached from others, isolating yourself from social contact, and behaving in ways that are not normal for you.
  • Spiritual expressions of grief may include questioning the reason for your loss, the purpose of pain and suffering, the purpose of life, and the meaning of death. After a death, your grieving process is influenced by how you view death. Grief can cause prolonged and serious symptoms, including depressionanxiety,suicidal thoughts and actions, physical illness, and post-traumatic stress disorder.



There are over 40 losses which can produce the grief. Even some events that are good and can bring positive changes, can have a loss associated with them such as graduating high school, moving, getting married, to name a few.

The list includes:

Death of a spouse
Marital separation
Death of a close family member
Personal injury or illness
Dismissal from work
Change in health of family member
Sexual difficulties
Gain a new family member
Business readjustment
Change in financial state
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
Spouse starts or stops work
Begin or end school
Change in living conditions
Revision of personal habits
Trouble with boss
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

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


The range of emotions associated with grief are as varied as there are people and personalities. Grief is individual and unique, so are the feelings and thoughts each person will have about the relationship that has been altered by death, divorce or for other reasons.


God created all emotions...joy, happiness, sadness and grief. Why do we think that it's bad or abnormal to feel sad? We cannot have joy without sadness. It is part of being human and it is the way that God intended it.

Jesus experienced sorrow and grief. He cried when his friend died, he was depressed in the Garden of Gethsemane. He was so grieved he sweated drops of blood. He truly does understand everything we go through and feel.

Every loss brings the potential for change, growth, new insights & understanding... all positive descriptions filled with words of hope!

Grief Defined


Simply defined, grief is the normal and natural reaction to significant emotional loss of any kind.


Dealing With Grief and Loss

Grief is one of society's least understood and most off-limits topic for discussion. Often, grievers feel totally alone, trying to deal with the conflicting emotions caused by loss. While normal and natural, most of the information passed on within our society about dealing with grief is not normal, natural or helpful. We are taught these things from an early age. Grief is the emotional response to loss, but most of the information we have learned about dealing with loss is intellectual. The majority of incorrect ideas about dealing with loss can be summed up in six myths which are so common that nearly everyone recognizes them. Most people have never questioned whether or not they are valid. The misinformation is best described in the following six myths:

Don't Feel Bad

Even though grief and all of the feelings associated with it are normal and natural, from the time we are children, we are constantly told not to feel the way we feel. Here is an illustration from the Grief Recovery Institute... a child comes home from pre-school with tears in her eyes. Her mom or dad asks what happened?, and the child responds, “The other little girls were mean to me.” To which the parent says, “Don’t Feel Bad, here have a cookie, you’ll feel better.” In reality, the cookie doesn't make the child feel better, she has merely been distracted from her hurt feelings. And, she has been told by her parents whom she trusts, not to feel bad. She has also been taught that when she feels bad she should medicate herself with a substance, in this case, sugar. She has also been taught that feeling bad or sad, is a bad thing,rather than a normal emotional reaction to a loss, no matter how small or large it may seem. From that point forward, the little girl is liable to start not telling the truth to her parents [and others] and begin burying her sad or painful feelings.

Replace the Loss- 

One of the first losses we typically experience is the loss of a pet...and then we hear the second part of the phrase, "don't feel bad...we'll get you a new pet". In reality, while we can get another dog, the irreplaceable element is the relationship with the dog who died. Sadly the concept of replacing the loss continues in full force. When a teenager's first romantic fling ends, the teen is likely to be told by well meaning family - "Don't Feel Bad, There Are Plenty of Fish In the Sea." Freely translated; "replace the loss" - just go get another boyfriend or girlfriend.

Grieve Alone

There are many compounding comments heard in childhood which contribute to this myth which creates isolation in everybody. "If you're going to cry, go to your room," is one of those statements which is made for different purposes, but still creates the effect of establishing that sad feelings are not to be displayed openly.You may have heard it said that grieving people tend to isolate. That is true to varying degrees depending on each individual, but it is based on many false ideas, one of which is, “You wouldn’t want to burden others with your feelings.”

Grief Just Takes Time

One of the most well know myths is "time heals all wounds"- but all time does is pass...it's the action steps we take while time is passing, that determine how and when we will heal. We all have known people who many years after a loss are still grieving. If the passage of time alone healed us, then everyone would be healed from grief at some point.

Be Strong - Be Strong For Others

The idea that you should be strong for others is another grief myth that tends to start in childhood, when we are taught that it is somehow more appropriate to put other’s needs ahead of our own. Many parents do not show their grief in front of children, thinking they must be strong. We really can't "be" anything for someone else. All we can be is honest, which is the most helpful thing you can do.This myth implies that we  should deny our own emotions while at the same time be sensitive to the feelings of others. It is  very unhealthy for the griever to repress their feelings for the sake of the imagined comfort of another. 

Keep Busy

Many people think that if they keep busy they will distract themselves from their pain and another day will have passed since their loss and time can do it's job of healing. You may be able to temporarily distract yourself from grief, but there is no escaping grief.  If we do not deal with it or face it or just try to bury it, it will come out in some way...either physically or emotionally or it will be compounded with future losses.







Here are some other things you need to know about grief...

Grief is a journey and a process..no two people grieve the same way... there is no time table on grief...There is no quick fix...If you don't grieve and just bury the pain, it will re-visit you and compound with each new loss...Just talking about your grief will not make it go away...There is no time table for grief...Grief can not be rushed...Others may attempt to rush your grief...Multiple losses extend grieving...The stronger the attachment, the more intense the feelings of loss...You can be doing fine and then be "ambushed" by grief...Grieving does not mean you lack faith...Grief may challenge your faith...we don't "get over" losing someone we love...we learn to adapt to life without our loved being physically present, but we don't forget them or stop loving them...

You will probably grieve differently each time you experience a significant loss. Your reaction to loss is influenced by the relationship you had with the lost person, object, or situation, and your general coping style, personality, and life experiences. How you express grief is also influenced by the things you've been taught in your in family, cultural, religious, and social rules of your community.

Rick Warren gives a message, "Getting Through Life's Losses: Sorrow"

Rick Warren gives a message, "Getting Through Life's Losses: Sorrow"