• Grieving: A Natural Response to Loss

    This article was drawn from two articles by N. Moberly (2021) in Better Up.

    Why Do We Grieve?

    Grief is a natural response to loss of someone or something important to you. While we often think of grief as profound emotional pain, we can also have intense visceral reactions to the emotions it stirs up. For example, we may feel like we have been punched in the gut, had our breath knocked out, or been hollowed from the inside out.

    At some point in our lives, we all deal with loss. Some examples of losses that lead us to grieve:

    • Death of a loved one/anticipation of this loss
    • Life-changing diagnosis for yourself or a loved one (terminal, chronic or temporary)
    • Loss of roles, functions, self-esteem and independence (especially as we age but also due to disability)
    • Loss of a cherished relationship (via divorce, separation, estrangement, when a relationship turns abusive, natural drifting apart, changed circumstances, etc.)
    • Loss of social connection (as happened during the Covid 19 pandemic for many)
    • Loss of anticipated life experiences (e.g., youth who missed out on high school and college time due to the pandemic or a couple who cannot biologically have children who decide to discontinue fertility treatment)
    • Job/career loss
    • Grown children leaving home
    • Loss of a sense of security and self-confidence due to impact of abuse or neglect

    A Common Experience … Unique to Each Person

    While grieving loss is a universal human experience, we each go about grieving in unique ways. There is not a right or wrong way to do it, a process that works for everyone to get through it , or a timeline for when it will begin or end. We don’t necessarily feel comradery with others who are grieving a similar loss. In fact, it is critical not to compare losses or grief reactions—one danger is that we can end up being critical or uncompassionate towards ourselves or others (e.g., “I/they should be over it by now”).

    Grief can lead to a wide variety of difficult emotions, including but not limited to feeling lonely, lost, sad, depressed, anxious and unsure about the future. Mourning a loss may affect feelings of worth and value (e.g., the death of a spouse, job loss or children leaving home can lead to loss of identity as partner, worker and caregiver.). It also can trigger physiological reactions such as changes in patterns of sleeping, eating, social connection, energy, etc.

    Not Just One Type of Loss and Grief

    Some loss, such as the death of loved ones or anticipation of death in the case of a terminal diagnosis, are universally recognized as sources of grief. There are often resources available to help people heal from these losses (although many people don’t tap into the resources or their grief is so profound that the resources may not be seen as useful). Other types of loss are less acknowledged as a cause of grief (e.g., job loss, kids leaving home or loss of a relationship). Some loss and grief may be complicated (e.g., the death of an ex-spouse or an abusive parent). Sometimes, grief is delayed (e.g., an abused child may not deal with the loss until adulthood). Feelings of loss and grief may build over time (e.g., ongoing erosion of a relationship with a loved one who has chronic mental illnesses). We are often stymied by what to do to deal with our collective losses (e.g., in response to natural disasters, war, violence, discrimination or political upheaval).

    Steps to Move through Grief

    Grief due to the loss of a loved one can be such so powerful that people sometimes look for ways to go around it rather than experience it. This approach will not work. The best thing you can do for yourself is to work through grief and express your feelings.  https://americanhospice.org/working-through-grief/

    As mentioned, everyone processes loss and grief differently. Yet, there are a few very broad self-reflective steps that can help you begin to work through them (from N. Moberly, 10/21/21).

    • Describe your loss and associated losses to begin accepting your current reality. Associated losses are unanticipated additional losses related to the primary loss.
    • Explore what’s different now for you. After a loss, you are different and what you need and what is important to you may be different. Taking time to clarify who you are now, after the loss. 
    • Envision your future life. Because you are different due to your loss, you are building a new life to some degree. What will I do differently in the future? What is important to me now?

    Related: For an article on journaling about grief see https://www.choosingtherapy.com/grief-journaling/

    There IS Help Available

    No matter what you are grieving over, there is therapeutic help available to aid you in moving through it. Sometimes we humans need help getting through life’s hardships; there is no shame in reaching out for support.  The counselors at the Mindful Counseling Center are here to assist you. Please contact us to set up an appointment.

    There are also related support groups in the community and online that might fit your needs. Check out our support resources to get started (under the News and Resources tab on our website).


    N. Moberly (Oct. 12,, 2021). Understanding grief for what it is and how we mourn. Better Up. https://www.betterup.com/blog/what-is-grief

    N. Moberly (Oct. 21, 2021). How to process grief and find healthy ways to overcome loss. Better Up. https://www.betterup.com/blog/how-to-process-grief