What is the Meaning of Grief?

What is Grief? (Grief Definition)

Grief is the feeling of sadness that happens after the experience of loss. It could be loss of a person (e.g. a parent or child), a pet, or even a situation (your home or workplace).

Table of Contents

Definition of Grief

Grief is the extreme reaction to loss or misfortune, particularly to the loss of someone or something that has died, to which a bond or affection was formed. It is also the reaction to a person’s own impending death.

It can be an intense sorrow, mental suffering and anguish that’s a natural response to loss.

It is the emotional suffering one feels when faced with a major life change, loss, tragedy, or significant transition.

It is the feeling of losing something or someone you care about deeply. You can experience grief when a loved one dies or when you get divorced.

It can leave you feeling sad, empty, or even angry. It can be a difficult time, and can sometimes lead to depression.

But it is a natural part of life. It is how we react to change.

It can be a good thing.

It can help us heal and move on from a loss. You will always miss your loved one, but it can help you remember the good times and help you begin to move on with your life.

Grief is a Strange Experience

A sharp sorrow; it’s like a storm that comes without warning.

It’s a heavy weight that can drag you down.

It’s a raging river that flows inside your body.

It’s a deep dark pit.

It’s a stormy sea.

It’s a river of tears.

It’s a confusing journey. It is a powerful emotion that everyone has to experience at some point in their life. It’s the pain, hurt, and heartache that is caused by the death of a loved one or loss of something you love.

Examples of Grief Causes

Death of a Child

When a child dies, the grief of losing that child is unlike any other. This is a profound kind of loss and a supremely difficult type of grief.

It is different than losing a spouse, partner, parent or friend.

It may be a loss for the whole family or a loss for just a parent or grandparent.

The death of a child is a loss so devastating that many people never recover from the pain and they are changed forever.

While the death of a child is one of the most painful experiences imaginable, it is a tragedy that touches thousands of families every year.

Death of a Parent

The death of a parent is extremely difficult to handle and it can be a very confusing experience for a child.

It can also be very difficult to watch a parent suffer and know that they are going to die.

Your parents are the first people you meet when you’re born. They nurture and raise you. Losing a parent can feel like losing an anchor or a touchstone in your life.

As a result, it can feel disorienting and disconnecting.

Your nuclear family is the family your born into, and you may or may not get along with them, but the loss of a parent can still carry that same sense of disorientation and loss.

End of a Relationship

The end of a relationship is never easy. It’s a difficult time for anyone to go through.

It’s like a sudden death. There’s shock, denial, anger, depression, and acceptance.

It’s a sad time, and no matter how positive you are, it’s hard to imagine feeling normal again.

When you’re in a relationship, you think about the good times. You remember the fun times you had together.

Maybe you remind yourself how you used to get along so well. But when it’s over, it’s over.

It’s not the same anymore. It’s very easy to think that things will never get better.

You may even think you’ll never feel better.

Perhaps you’re not even sure you want to feel better. It’s hard to remember that it will get better. But it will.

Grief from Loss of a Pet

There is a huge difference between sending a pet to a shelter and losing a pet due to an accident or illness.

Regardless of the reason behind the loss of a pet, grieving is natural and a part of the healing process.

It may not be easy, but it is possible to move through the grieving process and learn to heal as you honor your pet’s memory.

Distress over Affliction

This type of grief happens over the loss of our health and well-being. This will often take place in light of a major health diagnosis or after natural disasters.

Knowing that you have to live with a different health status or diagnosis for a long time, or that your life, or that of someone you love may be cut short as a result of a health diagnosis can cause this type of grief.

After a natural disaster, even if you’re saved by a disaster services team, you may still grieve the loss of your home, possessions, pets, or the stability that a home provides.

Complicated Grief

Grief is a normal reaction to loss and it is a process that is never the same for two people. It is a process of healing and moving on with your life. It often arises due to unresolved issues from the past or other losses. 

Complicated Grief Can Be Caused By:

In short, there are a variety of factors that can lead to complicated grief.

Additional factors besides loss, as described here can be the main factors in what might cause complicated grief vs. a more common grief process.

What are the Common Symptoms of Grief?

Physical Symptoms
You may feel cut off from other people, and you may think your emotions are abnormal.

Grief is a normal reaction to loss, but there are healthy ways to cope with it.

If you feel cut off from other people or if your emotions are making you feel isolated, it’s a sign that you need to reach out to others.

If you’re depressed, it’s time to reach out. If you have serious physical symptoms, it’s time to call your doctor.
Want Support in Working with Grief?

Click the button below to get the support and care you need.

Book your free consultation now!

The Stages of Grief

There are certain stages of grief that someone who is experiencing grief will go through, and it is important that those who are experiencing grief understand these stages and that the people around them understand the stages so that they can help the person who is grieving.

The stages of grief are stages identified by psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross that someone will experience when they are grieving.

It is important to remember that everyone who is grieving will not necessarily experience all of the stages, and there are many different orderings of the stages.

The Stages of Grief are:

1. Denial and Isolation

According to the Kübler-Ross model, denial and isolation are two of the most common symptoms of grief.

People who are grieving often go through this stage of grief. Denial is a way of coping with grief that involves rejecting or refusing to accept the reality of an event.

Denial may be a conscious decision, though a person may also deny aspects of the reality of a death without being aware of it. People often choose denial as a way to cope with intense grief.

The desire for social isolation comes from the fact that you’re feeling this tremendous emotional intensity about the loss and that can feel vulnerable.

Isolating yourself can be a way to try and keep yourself safe.

However, this stage of grief can also create a feeling disconnection from others where connection (even if you’re not speaking but are just physically present) can be a balm for the wound of loss.

2. Anger

This is where you might fight against and feel angry about what happened.

You might feel angry at God.

You might blame yourself or someone else for what happened.

In this stage of grief you might just feel a general sense of anger over what happened as well.

3. Bargaining

During the bargaining stage of grief, you may begin to question your own reality and what is happening to you.

This will typically happen in the first few days of the loss.

You may begin to question your religious beliefs, your faith, and your life.

You may seek out others for advice or answers.

4. Depression

Depression is the lowest stage of the five stages of grief and loss, and it can be triggered by any kind of loss.

It usually sets in immediately after the loss has occurred, and it can last anywhere from days to months. When you’re depressed, you feel worthless, helpless, and unable to move on with your life.

You may find yourself unable to think clearly, sleep well at night, or even leave your home.

The most important thing to remember about depression is that you are not alone – it affects millions of people across the globe and can be treated. Reach out for support.

5. Acceptance

The acceptance stage is the final stage of the grief process, and it is the time when the griever begins to learn to accept the loss.

Most people will reach this stage at some point, but it is not required. Some people may skip the earlier stages of grief and move directly into acceptance.

This is a typical reaction to a death that was expected or that was not traumatic in nature.

Acceptance can be a very positive stage in the grief process, since it can allow a person to move on with his or her life.

Adhering to the five stages of grief will generally result in a positive outcome for the griever.

It is important to remember that no two people will experience grief in the same way, and there is no set timeline for the stages. Every person’s grief will progress at his or her own pace and in his or her own way.

How Grief Affects Your Loved Ones

Grief affects everyone differently.

Bereaved people may have a few weeks of sadness after a loss, while others may find it hard to function for months or years.

They may not want to participate in social activities the way they had.

Daily living may be an ongoing struggle for a while or it may be an intermittent struggle as the grief arises.

Some people may feel guilt or anger, while others feel nothing at all.

The way that normal grief affects you and your daily life will depend on your unique personality and the relationship you had with the loved one who has died.

Grief vs. Sorrow

Grief and sorrow are very similar words but it’s important to understand the differences between them and how they affect people when they experience the death of a loved one.

Both normal grief and sorrow are feelings of deep sadness, but they are not the same.

Normal grief is about the deceased person, situation, or thing that was important to you.

Sorrow is a feeling of great sadness or regret for something that has happened.


Grief is a multifaceted response to loss, particularly to the loss of someone or something that has died, to which a bond or attachment was formed.

While the terms are often used interchangeably, bereavement refers to the state of loss, and grief is the reaction to loss.

Words that are commonly used to describe grief are acute sorrow, mourning, despair, and lament.

Mental Health Issues Concerning Grief

Prolonged Grief Disorder

Prolonged Grief Disorder, also referred to as complicated grief, is a long-lasting and disabling condition that occurs after the death of a loved one.

It is characterized by intense and persistent feelings of grief, as well as a range of symptoms that can interfere with your daily functioning.

Prolonged grief disorder can be caused by a number of factors, including a history of depression or anxiety, and the death of a loved one by suicide or violent means.

Complex Bereavement Disorder

Complex Bereavement Disorder is a mental health disorder that occurs when people deal with grief and loss in maladaptive ways.

Grief is a normal process, but when it becomes an all-consuming experience, it can become very harmful.

Complicated Grief often occurs after the death of someone close to you and can interfere with your everyday life.

Complicated Grief can be a normal reaction to a loss, but it can also be an indication of a mental health disorder.

If you are deeply distressed by your loss, and you feel you are unable to live your life because of it, you should seek help from a mental health professional.

Want Support in Working with Grief?

Click the button below to get the support and care you need.

Book your free consultation now!

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is when we still have lingering feelings in our system from a trauma we experienced.

These lingering feelings (anger, fear, guilt, sadness, confusion, etc.) often cause flashbacks or nightmares.

In addition to these symptoms, you may also experience grief over the trauma you experienced.

This kind of painful regret is especially common for folks who had childhoods where their needs went consistently unmet (e.g. safety, connection, etc.) or who lost loved ones suddenly, unexpectedly or violently.

Disenfranchised Grief

This form of grief happens when you refuse to acknowledge that you’re having a grief experience.

If you push the grief down; surpressing it, it’s still there in your system, it’s just not being allowed to express itself.

The absence of grief when you “know” an experience would most likely cause it can often be a clue that suppression and disenfranchised grief may be present.

As a result the grief will continue to stay in your system rather than moving through.

Healthy grieving can happen here if you allow yourself to feel the grief when it arises, rather than pushing it down.

Avoiding Grief

We live in a culture where we tend to surpress our feelings in general; anything we don’t want to feel like anger, sadness, fear, etc.

This avoidance also applies to grief as mentioned in the above discussion of disenfranchised grief.

Some ways we can avoid dealing with the grief are through extreme focus at work, self-medicating with drugs, cigarettes or alcohol, or through online gaming.

Trajectories of Grief

The trajectories of grief vary.

It is a non-linear process.

You cannot put a timeframe on it.

Grief can come up in any moment, whether you’re at work, relaxing at home, or doing anything else.

It’s not convenient.

The important thing is to acknowledge that it’s there and allow it to come up and move through without resisting it.

This will allow the grief to move through your system rather than staying stuck.

Grief Recovery

Grief Recovery is a deep and painful experience.

It is a normal response to a significant loss.

At times it is accompanied by overwhelming feelings of sadness or anxiety.

Grief Recovery is more than just a sad feeling.

It is a complex and painful process that requires you to grieve.

Grief Recovery can be a very long time. Some people experience grief during the days or weeks following a significant loss. Others experience grief for many months or even years.

Grief Counseling

Grief counseling is a professional service that can help you deal with grief by providing support and advice.

When you’re facing grief or mourning, you might need help in dealing with your feelings and thoughts about the loss of a person, pet, or object.

Grief counseling can also help you  understand that your feelings are normal and help you to move forward in a healthy and productive way.

An expert on grief can go a long way to helping you through the process.

As a mental health professional, I am here to support you through this process and provide the person to person care you need.

Reach out.
Want Support in Working with Grief?

Click the button below to get the support and care you need.

Book your free consultation now!

GiversClub_ej95-removebg-preview Cropped v2
By David Redbord, MA, MPH, LPCC
#1 International Bestselling Author and Walk and Talk Therapist
Want Support in Working with Grief?

Click the button below to get the support and care you need.

Book your free consultation now!


Boulder Healing Hub

1650 38th St
Suite #100e


© Copyright 2021 Therapist Boulder Colorado LLC. All right reserved.

..... ..... .....
..... ..... .....
...... ......