Grief is the natural, healthy, spontaneous, unlearned, normal, emotional, healing process that occurs after a significant loss. Grief is experienced uniquely by each of us, and is often experienced in waves, with emotions, thinking, physical, and social responses coming and going in terms of the intensity, duration, and order of our reactions to the loss. In addition there are many other variables that can affect our grief reaction and the grief experience.

Multiple Components of the Grief Experience

Emotional Components of loss can include:

Shock, numbness, feeling of unreality





Anger, irritability

Emptiness, loneliness


Carelessness, harming oneself or others in any way

Outbursts, euphoria

Cognitive Components of loss can include:

Slowed and/or disorganized thinking

Confusion, aimlessness, difficulty concentrating

Preoccupation, rumination

Unaffected, no thoughts at all about the person or the circumstances


Decreased self-esteem

Altered perceptions, sensing the presence of the deceased person

Physical Components of loss can include:

Fatigue, sleep disturbance

Decreased or increased appetite

Physical distress, nausea

Anxiety, hypo- or hyperactivity

Greater susceptibility to illness

Social Components of loss can include:

Being unaware of others’ needs


Withdrawing from or avoiding others

Decreased work productivity

Loss of interest in usual pleasures, including hobbies, relationships and/or sex

Strained relationships, differences in grieving needs between self and others

Variables that can affect your grief reaction:

Your own history of past losses, through deaths, divorce, relocation, lost dreams, phase of life changes. Violations of one’s safety (accidents, fire, personal trauma, world crises), or health changes

Your current personal and situational stressors

Your personal beliefs in a faith tradition or spiritual practice

Your cultural and family expectations about loss

If the loss is anticipated or unanticipated

If the loss is marked by traumatic events

The degree to which closure with the person was possible

A “loss out of season,” for the person who has died or for you

Your ability to share the loss with others

Your coping style and use of stress management resources

Working through past hurts and forgiveness issues

Finding a way to make meaning of the loss

Grieving is a Process

There is no correct timetable for the waves and reactions of grief. Yet, as you work through your grief, you can regain your balance, develop a sense of completeness, and re-engage in life in a deeper way. Your self-awareness in the process can be a personal journey and also one you may wish to share with others, through family, friendship, and work circles, or through professional and community resources.