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What is Grief?

Grief is the experience of coping with loss.


Most of us think of grief as happening in the painful period following the death of a loved one. But grief can come with any event that disrupts or challenges.

You may grieve the loss of:

  • A friend, family member, partner or pet.

  • A marriage, friendship or another form of kinship.

  • Your home.

  • Your job or career.

  • A dream or goal.

  • Good health.

  • Your youth.


You may also grieve your own loss of life as you prepare for death. For instance, people diagnosed with terminal illnesses often grieve no longer having the time to experience or achieve things they would’ve liked to.


What are the stages of Grief?


For some people, this may be the first response to loss.

Denial is a common defence mechanism. It may help you buffer the immediate shock of the hurtful situation.

As an immediate reaction, you might doubt the reality of the loss at first.

After this first reaction of shock and denial, you may go numb for a while.

At some point, you could feel like nothing matters to you anymore. Life as you once knew it has changed. It might be difficult to feel you can move on.

The first stage of grief is a natural reaction that helps you process the loss in your own time. By going numb, you’re giving yourself time to explore at your own pace the changes you’re going through.

Denial is a temporary response that carries you through the first wave of pain. Eventually, when you’re ready, the feelings and emotions you have denied will resurface, and your healing journey will continue.



Feeling intensely angry might surprise you or your loved ones, but it’s not uncommon. This anger serves a purpose.

It might be particularly overwhelming for some people to feel anger because, in many cultures, anger is a feared or rejected emotion.

During the anger stage of grief, you might start asking questions like “Why me?” or “What did I do to deserve this?”

You could also feel suddenly angry at inanimate objects, strangers, friends, or family members. You might feel angry at life itself.

It’s not rare to also feel anger toward the situation or person you lost.

Emotionally, you may resent them for causing you pain or for leaving you.

At some point, you might also feel guilty for being angry. This could make you angrier.

Try reminding yourself that underneath your anger is pain. And even if it might not feel like it, this anger is necessary for healing.

Anger might also be a way to reconnect to the world after isolating yourself from it during the denial stage. When you’re numb, you disconnect from everyone. When you’re angry, you connect, even if through this emotion.

But anger isn’t the only emotion you might experience during this stage. Irritability, bitterness, anxiety, rage, and impatience are just some other ways you might cope with your loss. It’s all part of the same process.



Bargaining is a stage of grief that helps you hold on to hope in a situation of intense pain.

You might think to yourself that you’re willing to do anything and sacrifice everything if your life is restored to how, it was before the loss.

During this internal negotiation, you could find yourself thinking in terms of “what if” or “if only”: what if I did XYZ, then everything will go back to normal; if only I had done something differently to prevent the loss.

Guilt might be an accompanying emotion during this stage as you inadvertently might be trying to regain some control, even if at your own expense.

All these emotions and thoughts aren’t uncommon. As hard as it might feel, this helps you heal as you confront the reality of your loss.



Just as in all the other stages of grief, depression is experienced in different ways. There’s no right or wrong way to go about it, nor is there a deadline to overcome it.

In this instance, depression isn’t a sign of a mental health condition. Instead, it’s a natural and appropriate response to grief.

During the depression stage, you start facing your present reality and the inevitability of the loss you’ve experienced. Understandably, this realisation may lead you to feel intense sadness and despair.

This intense sadness could cause you to feel different in other aspects too. You could feel:

  • fatigued

  • vulnerable

  • confused and distracted.

  • not wanting to move on

  • not hungry or wanting to eat.

  • not able or willing to get ready in the morning.

  • not able to enjoy what you once did.


This is all typically temporary and a direct response to your grieving process.

As overwhelming as it may feel at this point, this stage is a necessary part of your healing journey.



Reaching acceptance isn’t necessarily about being OK with what happened. Depending on your experience, it might be understandable if you don’t ever feel this way.

Acceptance is more about how you acknowledge the losses you’ve experienced, how you learn to live with them, and how you readjust your life accordingly.

You might feel more comfortable reaching out to friends and family during this stage, but it’s also natural to feel you prefer to withdraw at times.

You may also feel like you accept the loss at times and then move to another stage of grief again. This back-and-forth between stages is natural and a part of the healing process.

In time, you may eventually find yourself stationed at this stage for long periods of time.

That doesn’t mean you’ll never feel sadness or anger again toward your loss, but your long-term perspective about it and how you live with this reality will be different.

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