Understanding Grief and Loss

Understanding Grief and Loss

Table of Contents


Grief includes the emotional reaction we have in response to death or loss and what we do to manage our emotions. A loss you might experience could be a grandparent passing away, the death of a pet, or a friend moving away. There is no right amount of time to grieve, and everybody grieves differently.

What is Grief?

Grief is a common response to experiencing death or loss. A loss you might experience could be a grandparent passing away, the death of a family pet, or a friend moving away. 

It is important to know what to expect as you work through the death or loss of a loved one. Grief includes the emotional reaction we have in response to death or loss and what we do to manage our emotions. It is important to remember there is no right amount of time it takes to grieve, and that each of us grieves differently.  

Why Do I Feel This Way?

Why am I feeling Grief

When you lose someone in your life, you may experience a range of emotions: confusion, sadness, anger, or fear. You may even experience relief at the loss of a special person or animal. No matter how overwhelming, all emotions are normal and are healthy responses after losing someone or something important to you. Emotions help you work through the loss and allowing you to feel these emotions is an important part of the grieving process.

For some, grief is most intense immediately following the loss. For others, they might first experience feeling numb, shock, or disbelief. Like riding a rollercoaster, you may experience waves of grief following a loss, ups and downs with changing emotions. Death and loss can impact parts of your life and experiencing emotions is your brain and body’s way of helping you work through the loss and changes. If you are struggling with your loss, tell someone or reach out for help. Talking with someone you trust or a professional can help you work through your grief.

Responses to Grief

Responses to grief

Grief affects us all differently. While sadness is a common response after a loss, you may experience other physical, emotional, or spiritual changes as well. Below is a list of some common emotions, or experiences you may have after a death or loss. 

Physical Reactions

  • Changes in eating
  • Changes in sleeping
  • Upset stomach
  • Headache 
  • Crying 
  • Low energy
  • Unable to relax or pay attention
  • Asking more questions about death or the deceased
  • Withdrawing from activities that we typically enjoy

Emotional Reactions

  • Worrying
  • Sadness 
  • Anger 
  • Guilt or regrets
  • Shame 
  • Despair
  • Fear 
  • Relief

Spiritual Reactions

  • Finding strength in your faith 
  • Questioning beliefs 
  • Discovering spiritual meaning
  • Anger or frustration with your spiritual beliefs

Grief and Loss Wellbeing Strategies

Wellbeing Strategies

Talk to a Counselor or Therapist:  It can be difficult to address your emotions and thoughts, experiences, and life challenges. Reaching out to a counselor or therapist can help you feel better and less alone. Find a therapist near you here or try online therapy!

Talk to a Trusted Adult: Parents, mentors, school employees, and religious leaders can provide you with additional support and guidance to work through your life challenges.

Take Care of Yourself: Exercise, sleep, and eating healthy can have a big impact on your overall mood and how you feel about yourself. You can also do something you enjoy, such as yoga, art, sports, writing, listening to music, playing an instrument, etc.  Finding time to do things that you enjoy can help you feel better.

Meditate, Prayer, Mindfulness: Connecting to your breathing and your abilities to calm yourself can help positively increase your mood. Spending time in nature can help improve your mood.

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