Grief And Loss

Grief And Loss
Written By: Counselling Psychologist
M.Sc. Psychology - Swansea University, UK.
Reviewed By: Counselling Psychologist
MA Psychology Pennsylvania State University, USA
Last Updated: 31-03-2023

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Grief And Loss

We all go through many experiences in life; some of them are uplifting and on the other hand, there are experiences of loss that can shake us to the core. The loss of someone or something is an inevitable, yet painful experience. Loss can be experienced at any age or stage in life, be it childhood or old age. However, the nature of loss can be diverse in magnitude and its effects. Nonetheless, dealing with loss is an important process and a skill to progress in life.

Loss can be experienced in various forms. For example:

  • Loss of a job
  • Relationship break up
  • Loss of money
  • Loss of a pet
  • Significant trauma (eg. accident, death, etc.)


Effect of Loss and Grief:

Loss can affect individuals in various ways. Significant loss can cause intense grief reactions. While experiencing grief, people often go through strong emotional and physiological reactions and some of them are as follows:

  • Initial shock and disbelief
  • Emotional vulnerability and sadness
  • Fear of the consequences of loss or about future occurrences
  • Guilt
  • Physical Symptoms: Nausea, aches, pains, weight loss, difficulty sleeping, etc
  • Avoidance of daily activities like going to work, meeting friends, etc.
  • Issues in concentrating on tasks at hand

Such symptoms can be quite upsetting and cause distress and therefore need adequate attention, especially when facing major trauma or loss.


According to a popular psychiatrist and researcher, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, there are five different stages of grief1:

·         Denial: This stage is the initial refusal of accepting loss. When faced with a tormenting loss, this stage tends to generate strong responses such as denying the news of the death of a loved one and stressing that they are alive, etc. Ross identified this stage as a buffer to deal with difficult situations2.

·         Anger: While dealing with loss or trauma a person can express anger towards the situation, the people around, or even towards oneself as a way of coping.  

·         Bargaining: At this stage, a person attempts to make emotional negotiations to avoid the cause of grief. For example, a person diagnosed with a serious illness believes that if they make amends with people they have supposedly wronged their health will get better2. In a different situation, an individual may bargain by offering compromises. For example, during a break up a person offers to be “just friends”. 

·         Depression: This stage is experienced when an individual begins to accept certain aspects of loss and tries to come to terms with it.

·         Acceptance: This is the final stage of the grief process that involves accepting the reality of loss and its consequences.


Dealing with Loss and Grief:

Dealing with loss and grief can be a difficult process, to say the least. However, some ways can help in making this easier or bearable to an extent.

  • Self-Care: When suffering through loss and experiencing grief, it is important to show kind consideration and care to oneself. In an emotionally taxing situation, it is helpful to deal with personal emotions compassionately. Eating healthy, personal hygiene, and exercising are some basic steps, to begin with. Finding constructive ways to express emotions can help to reduce the pain of loss.
  • Ask for help: A strong support structure goes a long way in helping to cope with loss and grief. It provides the opportunity to filter our emotions. Thus, talking to trusted family members, friends or colleagues can be cathartic. Professional assistance from counselors and therapists is a very viable and healthy choice for coping with loss and grief.


Grief and loss are a part and parcel of life. Such an experience can at times help in increasing resilience by helping individuals identify what is important to them in life and giving them the strength to live their life better. For example, when faced with the loss of a loved one an individual may decide to live their life more meaningfully and honor the memories of the departed.




1.    Santrock, J.W. (2007). A Topical approach to life-span development. New York, NY: McGraw Hill.

2.    Walter, C.A., & McCoyd J. (2009). Grief and loss across the lifespan-a biopsychosocial perspective. New York, NY: Springer Publishing Company

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