All individuals experience grief and bereavement at some point in their lives. Grief occurs when one experiences a loss. There are various forms of loss, such as:

  • Death of a loved one
  • Losing your pet
  • Losing intimate relationships with your partner (i.e. break-up, separation, or divorce)
  • Losing family relationships
  • Losing your health and previous abilities
  • Financial or career loss

The grieving process is a natural and normal response to a significant loss, and may vary from one individual to the next. Grieving gives an individual time to mourn the loss of their loved ones. Some people may feel better in a few days’ time, while others may need weeks or years. Grieving processes also differ according to various cultures and religions, therefore an individual’s grieving experiences may differ vastly in comparison to another person’s experiences.


Overall, there is no set time on how long it takes for someone to overcome their grief. Most people are able to adapt and adjust to losses with the support of family and friends over time. Once the acute symptoms of grief have subsided and the individual has realised the finality of their loss, they are able to engage in a meaningful life once again. This is known as adaptive grief.


Emotions associated with grief

There are various emotions that are associated with grief and loss, and include (but are not limited to): feeling sad, shocked, angry, lonely, helpless, guilty, fear, anxious, and feeling an inability to cope with the loss. Additionally, an individual may also experience physical symptoms, such as: fatigue, low energy, insomnia, body aches, nausea, and a weakened immune system which may lead to increased vulnerability to illnesses.


When does grief turn into complicated grief?

When grief is prolonged, gets worse over time, and affects your everyday functioning, it may turn into complicated grief. Additionally, individuals may also experience symptoms of depression when they do not get better over time. Symptoms of complicated grief include: an intense yearning to be with the deceased, imagining the deceased person is alive or searching for the person, inability to accept the loss/death, and avoidance of reminders of the loved one.


When to seek help for grief and loss

There is no right or wrong way of grieving. However, if you find yourself turning to unhelpful coping mechanisms (i.e. using alcohol or drugs) to mask your pain, then it may be time to seek help. Similarly, if you have noticed that your grieving experiences are intense, overwhelming, and do not seem to subside over time, then it may also be an indication to seek professional help.

Grief FAQ

What is the best therapy for grief?

There are no right or wrong ways to grieve and each individual’s grieving process looks very different to the next. A therapist can help you understand your grief and loss, and talk about the emotions that you are experiencing. A therapist can also help you explore more helpful ways of dealing with grief and loss.


How long does grief therapy take?

Clients typically begin to feel better after 16 – 20 sessions of therapy. Therapy is more effective if it takes place on a more regular basis (i.e. once per week).


How do I know I need therapy for grief or loss?

If you find that your day-to-day functioning is being negatively impacted by grief or loss (i.e. you find it hard to maintain your basic self-care needs, or you are struggling with academic or work performance, or you have become more socially withdrawn from family and friends), then it may be time to begin seeking therapy for grief and loss.