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Grief & Loss

What is Grief?

Everyone will have significant losses at some point in their lives. We will experience grief with the death of our loved ones. We will have grief with other non-death-related losses, such as loss of employment, relationship, physical health, or independence from a disability.


Grief is a natural and necessary emotional reaction to loss. The experience of grief varies with different individuals. People can have different emotional, physical, cognitive, and behavioural reactions. Some common reactions include:



  • Shock & numbness – Usually the first reaction to loss. It is hard to believe we lose someone or something so valuable in our lives.

  • Sadness – We can be overwhelmed with sadness and cry a lot. We may feel despair.

  • Anger –We may become angry at the person we lost or the reason for our loss.

  • Guilt – We may feel guilty about having anger/resentment, something we said or did not say, or the fact that we cannot stop our loved ones from dying.



  • Fatigue, tiredness, exhaustion

  • Sleep disturbances – Difficulties falling/maintaining sleep or oversleeping too much

  • Changes in appetite – Eating too little or too much

  • Upset stomach

  • Muscle tension

  • Headache or pain



  • Concentration and/or memory difficulties

  • Difficulty making decisions, even simple ones

  • Confusion

  • Preoccupation with loss/death – We cannot stop thinking about the loved one or things associated with the loss.



  • Avoid people or situations that remind us of the loss

  • Change in activity level – working too much or too little

  • Neglecting self-care, such as personal hygiene, nutrition, health

  • Loss of interest in work, world events, social activities, or sex

  • Increase consumption of alcohol, drugs, or medications to cope with the loss

  • Acting out


Although grief can create strong and overwhelming reactions, especially at the beginning of the loss, many individuals will naturally have fewer symptoms of grief after a few months.


Managing Grief & Loss

People deal with their grief and loss in different ways. Certainly, there are no right or wrong ways to grieve. However, some ways are less healthy than others, such as relying on alcohol or drugs, lashing out of anger towards others, etc. Here are some positive and constructive ideas to cope with the loss:


  • Acknowledging, expressing, and accepting feelings
    Allow ourselves to be sad, angry, confused, or whatever feelings that appear from the loss. Accepting your feelings may be difficult, but it is natural and healthy. When we allow ourselves to express and process our feelings about the loss, we can move closer to acceptance.


  • Taking care of yourself
    Having a strong physical body will certainly assist us in recovering from our loss. Finding ways to sleep well, eat healthily, and exercise are crucial. Doing things or hobbies that you enjoy can improve your mood.


  • Social support
    Talking with trusted family members or friends can be tremendously helpful for our grieving. We don’t have to be all alone while we grieve.


  • Spiritual care
    Many individuals find comfort in spirituality. Participating in rituals (e.g., funerals) allows us to express our grief and seek support from people who are going through grieving at the same time. Attending a church service or praying at a temple can bring us serenity and be soothing for our grief.

When to Seek Professional Help

Sometimes, professional help may be necessary when the grief is too intense and overwhelming and does not diminish with time. The following are signs to look out for:

  • Not feeling better after several months of grieving

  • Persistent and intense depressive mood

  • Suicidal thoughts or other self-harm behaviours

  • Faking “strong” on the outside and denying pain inside

  • Inability to participate or significant loss of interest in work, school, or daily life activities

  • Notable changes in sleeping or eating patterns

  • Difficulties with concentration

  • Deteriorating relationships and/or withdrawal from families and friends

  • Increase use of chemical substances

What is Grief Counselling?

Psychologists can assist the grieving individuals: 


  • To learn and understand the normal grieving process
    This is particularly important for grieving individuals who are slipping into more serious conditions, such as depression.  


  • To assist with emotional acceptance about the loss
    Not being able to express, process and accept difficult emotions arising from the loss is a barrier to recovery. Psychologists are trained in using different strategies to assist individuals with emotional processing and acceptance. When people can express, process, and accept difficult emotions, they make crucial steps towards healing from the loss.


  • To adjust to the new reality after the loss
    Psychologists can help grieving individuals problem-solve new lifestyle behaviours without their loved ones or objects, develop different and more balanced perspectives about their loss, and explore a new identity after their loss.


If you or someone you know can benefit from grief counselling, contact us for a free 15-minute consultation to see how we can help you on your path to feeling better. 

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