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Grief Occurs in a Number of Situations, Not Only When a Loved One Passes

Most of us think that grieving is only related to the death of a loved one. In fact, many types of losses can produce the emotional response that is grieving. It is normal and natural to respond to a any type of loss with grief. In addition to death, grief can be evoked over life changes, disruption of family patterns or even environmental changes.

Below is a list of normal life events that can evoke grief:

  • Unrealized dreams for your life, such as becoming a professional dancer or musician after preparing for many years

  • A career that changes requirements which you are not able to achieve- such as learning new technology

  • A marriage that ends in divorce and affects your ability to form other intimate relationships

  • A job or home you had to leave due to relocation or downsizing

  • Financial insecurity due to divorce or job loss

  • Loss of youth, along with changes in physical appearance and abilities

  • Your social circle becomes smaller due to friends moving away

  • Empty nest due to children going away to school

The above examples highlight that there are any number of normal life events that can cause grief. I am sure you have experienced some of these, and maybe others.

In addition to grieving over events that actually happened, some people grieve over things that never happened to them. They feel they missed an important life experience, resulting in a feeling of grief. Examples of missed experiences include:

  • A happy childhood with loving parents and siblings

  • A large extended family with grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc.

  • Meaningful friendships

  • Being part of a certain group

  • Being beautiful/ handsome, rich, smart, etc.

Obviously some of these issues are more painful than others. However grief happens, all people go through a similar process to deal with it. This process has five stages:

1. Denial

To protect ourselves, we put up a wall. We try not to think about the loss, or minimize the impact. “I don’t care” or “It’s not such a big deal”.

2. Anger

When we do allow ourselves to look at the loss, we feel anger. Anger can be felt in varying degrees, such as frustration, irritation, and upset. This anger can be expressed outwardly (rage), or inwardly (depression).

3. Bargaining

When anger calms down we ask “What if? Or think “If only...” We might try to bargain with ourselves or with God.

4. Depression

We allow ourselves to feel the intense pain. The full impact of the loss is experienced. We feel helpless, powerless. People often experience self-pity, “Why me?” Crying can be a good way to express intense sadness and facilitate healing.

5. Acceptance

We believe that the loss is real. This does not mean this is a happy stage. It is more like a state of relative peace.

Not everyone experiences the stages of grief in the same way, or in the same order. Some stages may be more intense than others. Some people go back and forth among the stages, and the length of time to move toward acceptance can vary greatly.

The ultimate goal is to achieve some level of peace. Understanding the types of events that cause grief, and the process to deal with it will help to achieve this. Hopefully, with this peace, we will become comfortable with life again and will feel a sense of freedom to go on. We will accept our loss and cope with life the way it is. We will have the strength to set new goals and to meet the challenges along the way.

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