What is Grief?


Grief is the emotional, intellectual and spiritual process that occurs as a result of a loss. The loss is often the death of a loved one (a person or pet), but it may also be the loss of an ideal (divorce, job, home, etc.).

In one way or another, we are all affected by loss – it is inevitable and ever-present in all lives. Death is universal, as is grief. We all must cope with bereavement at some stage in our lives. The finality of death brings to those left behind a tremendous amount of emotional pain. Grief is not something abnormal; rather, it is a normal and inevitable step in our journey through life.


Two simple definitions of grief are 1) the conflicting feelings caused by the end of or change in a familiar pattern or behavior. 2) a normal, natural and painful emotional reaction to loss. We can grieve not only for the passing of a human life, but also for the death of a relationship (divorce) or we can suffer the same emotional reactions over the loss of a beloved pet. Grieving is difficult because it involves many intense feelings – love, sadness, fear, anger, relief, compassion, hate and happiness to name a few. Not everyone experiences all of these feelings, but many in the grieving process experience several of them at the same time. The feelings are intense, disorganizing and can be long-lasting. Grieving has often been described as drowning in a sea of painful emotions.