Grief is a deep sadness or sorrow that results from a loss. The loss can be from something big or small. It can be from something positive or negative. Examples of things that cause grief include changes in:

  • A job (new or lost job, promotion or demotion, retirement)
  • Relationships (getting separated or divorced, having a child leave home)
  • Health (illness, injury)
  • Life matters (death of a family member or friend, loss of property, moving to a new place)

Bereavement is a process of grieving most often linked with the death of a loved one.

Many factors shape our response to a loss such as death, including:

  • Age
  • Health
  • How sudden the loss was
  • Cultural background
  • Religious beliefs
  • Financial security
  • Social network
  • History of other losses or traumatic events

Each of these factors can add to or reduce the pain of grieving. Trying to deny grief or avoid it only seems to create more serious problems later. To come through the process in a healthy way, it is best to understand what coping with loss is all about.

Stages of Grief

The normal period of grieving the loss of a loved one lasts from one to three years, but could take longer. Before a griever can feel whole or healed, they generally go through four stages:

  1. Shock: The person feels dazed or numb
  2. Denial and Searching: The person is in a state of disbelief; asks questions such as "Why did this happen?", "Why didn't I prevent this?"; looks for ways to keep their loved one or loss with them; thinks he or she sees or hears the deceased person; just begins to feel the reality of the event
  3. Suffering and Disorganization: The person has feelings such as guilt, depression, anxiety, loneliness, fear, hostility; may place blame on everyone and everything including themselves; may get physical symptoms such as headaches, stomachaches, constant fatigue or shortness of breath; withdraws from routine and social contacts
  4. Recovery and Acceptance: The person begins to look at the future instead of focusing on the past, adjusts to the reality of the loss, develops new relationships, develops a positive attitude

Self-Help Tips

These tips can help you or someone else to deal with grief:

  • Eat regular meals
  • Get regular physical exercise such as walking
  • Allow friends and family to assist you; tell them how you really feel; don't hold you feelings inside; visit friends and family --especially during the holidays-- if you would otherwise be alone; traveling during the holidays may also be helpful; it is also important to reminisce; being reminded of the past can be essential to the process of coming to grips with a loss
  • Try not to make major life changes such as moving during the first year of grieving
  • Join a support group for the bereaved, if someone close to you has died; for assistance, contact your BJC EAP representative, church or synagogue, funeral home or hospice centers

What You Can Do for a Friend or Relative

  • Be supportive
  • Be a good listener, and listen without judging; encourage the mourner to talk; the mourner needs to vent their feelings about the loss
  • Allow them to mourn; mourning is a necessary process; do not expect the mourner to bounce back to their old self right away
  • Be compassionate; some things to say include:
  • "How are you doing?"
  • "Do you want to talk? If not, that's okay. When you want to talk, just let me know."
  • "I am sorry about your loss. What can I do to help?"
  • "I don't know what to say."
  • "I care about you. What can I do to help you?"
  • Actions can speak louder than words. The sense of touch can be very soothing during grief and bereavement. Put your arm around the person who is grieving. Hold their hand. Touch their shoulder or arm.
  • Call your friend or relative or send them a caring greeting card at times when they are more apt to miss the deceased person (during holidays; or the anniversary date of the person's death, birthday, wedding anniversary)  

If you or someone you know is suffering from the signs of grief, call for help.