Grief is a normal response to the loss of something or someone you deeply loved and cared about. Although many people associate grief with being just an emotional reaction to loss, grief can also impact an individual socially, physically, culturally, as well as the way they behave. Here we will consider what grief truly is, the different ways it can impact a person's life, as well as it's different stages.
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Medically reviewed by Paige Henry, LMSW, J.D.
Explore More On Grief
Grief is a natural part of life. Whether you’re grieving the loss of a loved one or the end of a relationship, mourning someone or something you’ve lost is natural. Grief isn’t a linear process, and it can take time to say goodbye and find a new normal. The grieving process that a person goes through can last for an extended period and looks different for everyone. Here, we’ll explore the different stages of grief and discuss what the process of grieving may entail.
Sometimes we’re at a loss as to how to stop grieving. You don’t have to put a time limit on the grieving process, or how you grieve. But, it can help to talk about grieving in counseling. You may have trouble understanding how you feel, and speaking to a therapist will help you understand your complicated emotions during the 7 stages of grief so you can start the healing process after grief and loss. In the DSM-5, or the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, prolonged grief disorder is often associated with intense sadness after a death that lasts for a very long time, as much as multiple years. Learning about the benefits of grief counseling can help you understand some resources you have during this hard time.
Grief is naturally painful because coping with the loss of someone whom you loved hurts. We all lose people, and this experience is something that often doesn’t get easier even after you’ve gone through it once. Whether you’ve lost a parent, friend, partner, sibling, or co-worker, it’s hard to lose anyone who was once a significant part of your life.
Grief doesn’t only extend to people, though. You may grieve the loss of a job, pet, friendship, romantic relationship, or home. Graduating from college and moving on can spark feelings of loss, as can moving to a new city. Leaving home for the first time or being diagnosed with a chronic illness may cause you to grieve life as you once knew it. Whether it’s stability, security, or something else, loss can be a natural yet painful part of life.
There’s No Right Way to Grieve
Everyone reacts to and copes with loss differently. You’re allowed to grieve in your own way, and no one can tell you how to cope with a loss. There’s no fast-forward button through a grieving period, and the most effective healing tool can often be time. People typically need time to fully feel, process, and then release their emotions. The more someone can understand their feelings, the higher chance they can have of processing their loss in a healthy manner.
The Stages Of Grief
Dr. Kübler-Ross was a Swiss-American psychiatrist who specialized in grieving. She studied the grieving process and wrote specifically about the stages of death. Dr. Kübler-Ross researched all the emotions people felt when they learned they were dying, and these became known as the five stages of grief. Her writing focused not on grieving the loss of someone in your life, but rather how people who were in the end stages of their lives felt. Her stages of grief model, however, is still often applied to people who have lost loved ones or family members. The five stages of grief are as follows:
People who are grieving might move through these different stages at various speeds. Further, they might go through them in a random order. Some people even go through some of the stages, go backward, and then forward again, repeatedly. Learning more about the five stages of grief can help people get through an extraordinarily difficult time. However, there is no timeline or right way to grieve, and the process looks different for everyone.
Grief Isn’t Linear
Even though there are stages of mourning, grief doesn’t follow a pattern, and it isn’t linear. You may go through periods of sadness and then feel angry. You might think you’ve accepted the fact that someone you love isn’t here anymore, and then you’re reminded of that person when you see an item at a store they might like. You might go through a period where you don’t want to admit that the person is gone from your life.
There’s nothing wrong with reminiscing over the time you spent with your loved one. This might be a way to help you get through the grieving process. Experiencing a range of complex and complicated emotions is normal and to be expected.
Prolonged Grief Disorder
Most people who experience grief begin to feel a little better over time, experiencing a reduction in their symptoms. However, for a small minority of people, their symptoms persist and develop into a mental health condition called prolonged grief disorder.
In the DSM-5, or the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, prolonged grief disorder is defined as intense sadness after a death that lasts for a year or more. To be diagnosed with persistent grief disorder, a person must be regularly affected by their symptoms. They might feel unable to complete daily responsibilities or have a hard time functioning at all throughout the day. Around seven to ten percent of adults experience prolonged grief disorder, which often requires professional intervention.
Learning about the benefits of grief counseling can help you understand some of the resources available to you or a loved one during this hard time.
Coping With Grief And Loss With Online Therapy
Grief can be an incredibly complex emotion. You may feel at peace one day and then have trouble getting out of bed the next morning. Sadness and loss can be challenging feelings to process on your own, which is why it could be beneficial to connect with someone who can help, such as a certified grief counselor.
While the symptoms of grief may make it difficult to attend therapy in person, online therapy platforms like BetterHelp might be a more appealing option. With online therapy, you can talk to a therapist using video chats, phone calls, or in-app messaging. You can choose the medium you feel most comfortable with and allow your provider to guide you through the grieving process with compassion, understanding, and support.
The Efficacy Of Online Therapy For Grief
Research has shown that individuals who are struggling with feelings of grief could benefit from participating in online therapy. In a recent study, researchers discovered that internet-based interventions were a “safe and effective approach for treating symptoms of grief, depression, and posttraumatic stress” after bereavement. Those who participated in the study reported high satisfaction with it.
Many people are familiar with the strong emotions that can accompany grief. As common as this feeling may be, every person can still be impacted by grief differently. Likewise, the process of coping and healing from grief is unique for everyone.
Whether you’re trying to move past a breakup or establish a new sense of normal after losing a loved one, you are not alone. Within this section, you can access various articles on the topic of grief and get helpful tips for moving forward. If you would like further support and guidance, you may choose to connect with an online BetterHelp therapist at your convenience.