Understanding Grief

Posted on March 26, 2018

griefGrief is a normal response to the death of someone important to you. It can be both powerful and painful--physically, emotionally, socially and spiritually. But when we understand this natural process, take care of ourselves, and seek support, grief can lead to healing and personal growth.


A variety of factors, including your personality, your support system, and your natural coping mechanisms will determine how loss will affect you. Some people feel better after a few weeks or months, and for others it may take years. The grief process is non-linear; in the midst of recovery there may be setbacks. For that reason, it’s essential to treat yourself and others with patience, kindness, and compassion as you allow the process to unfold.

Not only do we all experience grief differently, but we also expresses grief in our own unique ways. While some people’s loneliness or sadness may appear to be more pronounced, others may keep their feelings of grief to themselves. Throughout the healing process, grief’s manifestations may vary in amount and intensity. Take time to listen, experience and understand them.

Even if you cannot control the process, it may be helpful to understand the reasons behind your feelings of grief. While we all experience grief differently, experts have identified five common stages of grief:

Denial: When you first learn of a loss, it’s normal to feel shocked or numb. This is a temporary defense mechanism to deal with the sudden onset of overwhelming emotion.

Anger: As reality sets in, you may feel frustrated, helpless, or angry. You might direct these feelings toward other people, a higher power, or life in general. It is also to direct your anger toward the loved one who has passed away and left you alone.

Bargaining: During this stage, you may dwell on what you could have done to prevent the loss. It is common to think “If only…” and “What if…”

Depression: As you witness how the loss affects your life, you may feel intense sadness. It is normal to feel overwhelmed, lonely, and experience symptoms of depression, such as sleep issues or loss of appetite.

Acceptance: Although you might still feel sad, you are able to accept the reality of your loss. You are able to start moving forward with your life.

Keep in mind that these stages may come in a variety of forms and progressions. You may go back and forth between several stages, and it is perfectly normal if you don’t experience all five.



griefThere is no “normal” amount of time to grieve. In many cases, grief may be a lifelong process; it is absolutely normal to feel the aftershock of loss for the rest of your life. According to the  Grief Healing Blog, “grief is like a deep wound that eventually heals and closes, but whose terrible scar remains and still can hurt at times.” With that being said, if you ever experience thoughts that your life is not worth living, or if you find it difficult to complete daily tasks (such as cleaning or going to work), we recommend that you talk to a doctor or therapist.

In order to understand your grief and begin your unique healing process, it is so important that you practice self-care. Be sure to sleep and eat well. When you feel ready, try to participate in your usual hobbies and activities that bring you joy. Most importantly, accept your feelings and remember that grieving is a process.

Spending time with friends and family can also be key to healing. Speaking with others who are also grieving can help you feel connected and supported. Joining bereavement groups or speaking with a therapist may be a beneficial part of your grief journey. You can use our End With Care Resource Directory to find supportive resources near you.


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End With Care Corp is a 501(c)(3), non-profit organization helping to provide end-of-life information and access to resources found
throughout Massachusetts.

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