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Grief Is Not Exclusive to Death

When we hear the word “grief,” we typically assume there has been a death. However, this is not always the case. As we have learned over the last two years of going through a pandemic, grief comes in all shapes and forms and may show up where and when we least expect it. Grief is the reaction we have to any type of loss, a relationship, a pet, a job, or even just the lives we had before. Unfortunately, we all have experienced a loss at some point in our lives. When we are grieving the death of a loved one, that is referred to as bereavement.

Types of Grief

We all experience loss at some point in our lives. Whether it is a breakup, the loss of a job, loss of finances, loss of our health, leaving home, graduating from school, losing a pet, having a miscarriage, a loved one dying or ceasing communication, or even the loss of life as we knew it in the case of the Covid-19 pandemic. There are no right or wrong things to grieve, and no one's grief is invalid just because they grieve something that does not seem as important as something someone else is grieving.

Anticipatory griefis a type of grief in which you may have seen the loss coming. For example, you may be expecting that a sick relative may not have much longer to live, or you will be leaving the college life you love so much.

Complicated or chronic grief involves feelings of loss that are so intense that they interfere with your daily functioning.

Cumulative grief is a form where we may experience multiple losses in close proximity to one another. Regardless of the type of grief you are experiencing, you may feel many negative emotions.

Symptoms of Grief

Grief is a reaction to a loss. When experiencing these symptoms, you may feel like you will never see the light at the end of the tunnel. It is important to remember that these feelings won’t last forever, but there is also no time frame for grief. Depending on the type of grief, symptoms may include:

  • Sadness: You may feel emptiness and longing for that thing or person you have lost. Be aware of these feelings as they can often lead to depression.

  • Guilt: You may feel that you could’ve said or done something differently. It would help if you didn’t place blame on yourself.

  • Anger: You may feel that it wasn’t the person’s time to pass away or that you fought for the relationship, but your loved one still left. Whatever the circumstance, we can start to feel anger at them or ourselves in response to this.

  • Regret: You may wish that you didn’t do something different or that you would have tried harder. Whatever happened has happened, and it’s essential to remind yourself that you can’t change the past. Hindsight is always 20/20.

  • Crying: You may cry at random times or in different places and not understand why. Our unconscious may be feeling things that we are not aware of. Crying is a perfectly normal response to loss.

  • Dwelling on the loss: You may be having dreams about the person, job, or thing that you lost. Constantly thinking about the situation can start to become overwhelming. Try distracting yourself with healthy coping skills when this happens.

  • Hopelessness: You may feel like there is no hope for future relationships, careers, etc. Remind yourself of the good things in your life by listing them on paper or out loud and practicing mindfulness.

  • Isolation: It is imperative that you continue surrounding yourself with people, specifically those who bring you joy. Becoming isolated can make some of these symptoms worse.

Stages of Grief

Regardless of the type of grief or loss we have experienced, we all go through a cycle of feelings and emotions. Typically, this cycle follows a pattern of stages:

  1. Denial: We may not want to acknowledge the loss, whatever form that may take.

  2. Anger: This can lead to a mindset of “why is this happening to me?”

  3. Bargaining: At this stage, we will do anything we can to change the circumstances.

  4. Depression: This is the next emotion we typically experience. In this stage, we need to find the motivation to keep going.

  5. Acceptance: Finally, we reach an understanding that life will go on.

These stages of grief can happen in any order, and some people may stay in one stage longer than another person. Each experience is unique to each person and each situation, which is why there are no rules on how to grieve or for how long.

Tips for Dealing with Grief

It may seem like nothing will ever heal the pain you feel after a loss. However, understanding the support you have and learning coping skills can be helpful.

  • Give yourself time to grieve and allow those feelings. Don’t try to fight your feelings. Allow them to come. Allow yourself time. Grieving is a process with no time limit.

  • Surround yourself with positivity and support. Keep your social life active to distract yourself and cope healthily. You may not realize how strong your support system is until you experience something negative such as a loss.

  • Make self-care a priority. Eating healthy, getting enough sleep, going outside, and doing things that you enjoy are great ways to maintain your mental and physical health.

  • Look for the lesson. In the beginning, this may seem complicated but try to find something to take away from the loss. It realizes what you deserve in a relationship, for example.

Ask for help. We can’t do everything on our own. Sometimes we need help and support. This is not always easy to admit, but it is okay.

The Neurofeedback and Counseling Center of PA can help you navigate grief, loss, and bereavement. Contact us today at (717) 202-2510 or email to schedule an appointment. Also, ask about our 6-week virtual grief and loss support group running Mondays from 7-8 PM and Thursdays from 12-1 PM.

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