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Grief & Loss

Grief is a normal response to losing someone or something that we value.

The loss may involve the death of a loved one, or it may be a non-death loss such as losing a home, a job, a relationship breakup, or even something less tangible like the loss of a dream.

Here’s a good 4 minute video from Wellcast on coping with grief.

Grief may commonly affect us in 5 domains:

  • Physical – we may feel tired all the time (lethargy of grief), our sleep patterns may be disrupted, eat less or more than usual.
  • Cognitive (mental) – we may lose the ability to concentrate or focus, decision-making ability may be impaired, and we may even have short-term memory loss.
  • Emotional – grief can be a roller coaster of emotions! Anything from sadness to laughter, or anger and rage to numbness and the inability to feel anything at all. Anhedonia is common – the inability to experience pleasure from ordinarily pleasurable activities.
  • Social – it’s not uncommon to isolate or pull away from normal social activities, friends, or family. There may be a significant loss of relational energy.
  • Spiritual – grievers may ask the “why questions” about life, death, the existence or goodness of God, etc. Loss of “divine spark,” and a new search for meaning. This is actually healthy!

It is important to distinguish between grief and mourning. While grief is the internal set of thoughts, feelings, and physical symptoms, mourning is “grief gone public,” or externalized. Mourning may take various forms, including allowing our internal emotions to be outwardly seen by others by crying or sobbing, changing routine behaviors, more isolation, journaling, engaging in ceremonies to honor and remember the deceased, intentional self-care, etc.

According to renowned grief expert, Dr. Alan Wolfelt, appropriate mourning is necessary in order to heal grief. However, mourning requires a safe environment and safe grief “companions” to talk to. Unfortunately, many grievers find that opening up in the wrong place or to the wrong people (unsafe people who may judge or give poor advice) only results in further pain.

Understanding your grief: Ten essential touchstones for finding hope and healing your heart. by Dr. Wolfelt might be a very helpful book for someone who wants to understand more about the grief experience. Wolfelt, A. (2003). Fort Collins, CO: Companion Press.