What is grief?
- Grief is a human emotion that we experience around loss.
- We don’t just feel grief after a death, people experience grief for lots of reasons, including relationship breakdowns and job loss.
- Everyone experiences grief differently. There is no right way to grieve.
Grief is a term for an emotion that we can experience for a whole host of reasons. Although we regularly talk about grief in relation to death, there’s grief relating to many other kinds of loss – for example loss of an old way of life, a job, an item, or a partner.
Although grief is something we all have to go through, and continue to go through throughout our lives, talking about grief can feel really tough. If you’re experiencing feelings of loss and grief, you can contact the CALM helpline here.
People experience grief for many reasons – and they can be a result of a combination of things. These can include:
- Death of a loved one – a family member, friend, colleague, pet or even an acquaintance or celebrity that meant a lot to you.
- Loss of a way of life – if your life has changed or you can’t do the things you used to be able to, it is normal to experience grief.
- Loss of a job or role that contributes to your sense of identity.
- A relationship breakdown.
- Loss of a status or respect.
- Loss of a home.
How does grief feel?
We all probably have an idea of how grief feels for ourselves, but even individually we can experience different types or levels of grief.
There’s no one way to experience grief, and definitely no right way. You may cry at the death of an animal, but struggle to express yourself after the loss of a family member or friend. Grief doesn’t always make sense, and how you feel can change from day to day or hour to hour. It’s common to hear the saying ‘time is a healer’ or words to that effect, but grief isn’t something you ‘get through’. It can resurface years after a loss and can feel just as intense. Having someone to support us when we’re experiencing grief is important, as is being able to talk openly about how you feel.
Experiencing grief can also trigger other mental health issues like anxiety and depression. If you are struggling with your mental health after a loss, then you can talk to CALM.
If you are experiencing grief you may feel some or a combination of the following:
- Lack of motivation
- Joy at the memories you have
- Suicidal thoughts
- Intense sadness
- Loneliness or isolation
- Fear about the future
- Worries about friends or family
- Inability to ever move on
No matter how you’re feeling, or what situation you’re in
there’s always a way forward – even if it doesn’t feel that way right now.
Where can I find help?
- Talk to CALM from 5pm to midnight everyday. Our professional helpline workers are there to talk and to help you find ways to move forward. Calls and webchats are free, anonymous, non-judgemental and confidential.
- Outside of these hours, call the Samaritans on 116 123
Dealing with grief
Not being able to talk about the things we’re finding difficult in our lives makes them harder to deal with. Finding someone to talk to after a loss is really important, as grief can be too much to deal with alone. If you don’t have a trusted friend or family member, or feel like no one understands how you’re feeling, there are many types of grief counselling and support available.
Find others that have experienced similar loss
When you’re bereaved, it can feel like nobody understands how you feel. Support groups can help you to feel less alone create a safe space to talk about how you feel.
Talk to a professional
Grief is a complex emotion. If you’re struggling with a loss and it’s affecting you intensely and making it difficult for you to live your life, talk to your GP or a mental health professional. They’ll be able to give you advice and refer you to people and services that specialise in bereavement support.
Grieving isn’t just about feeling sad
When we talk about grief, people often forget to talk about the joy you can experience too. While losing someone or something is devastating, grief can also give us a chance to think about that person or thing in a different light. Try to remember the valuable memories you have, the good times and the funny moments – they are all still valid, perhaps even more so. It is really only possible to move forward when you have allowed yourself to experience all the different feelings that a loss can bring up.
Talking about grief
It can be difficult to talk about grief with your friends, family or a medical professional. Here’s some ways you can start a conversation around how you’re feeling:
“I need to talk to you about how I’m feeling. Things are tough since I lost  and I’ve been really struggling”
“I need to talk – I’ve been struggling with the loss of [ ] and don’t feel that there is much point in being here myself”
Header Illustration by Saskia Pomeroy
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