Grief and loss
September 11, 2022
This article covers:
- What is grief/loss?
- Grief/loss and mental health
- With whom or where to get help?
What is grief/loss?
Grief refers to the emotional suffering caused by the loss of something or the death of a loved one. This can include the loss of a job, relationship, house, pet, family member or the diagnosis of an illness.
Feeling distressed in response to a loss is a natural response. Your mind and body have to process a big change of something or someone not being there anymore, and this can be a complex process that can take time.
There is research to suggest that approximately 92% of young people in the UK will have experienced grief from losing a parent or a pet by the time they turn 16 years old.
During the times of COVID , many people have experienced grief and loss all within a short period of time and the need for social distancing has made it more complex. If you are experiencing grief during the times of COVID, it is likely that it will be more intense and distressing than normal.
Grief usually includes an intense form of sadness, but it can also involve many different emotional states. This is described in the well-known theory of the 5 stages of grief by psychiatrist, Kubler-Ross. Not everyone will experience each of these states or necessarily in a specific order. These states include:
1. Disbelief/Denial- Finding it hard to believe and accept the loss and being in a state of shock. You might believe that the news is somehow false or incorrect. This is your mind’s way of protecting you from a flood of intense emotions. It can last hours, days or even longer, but eventually it fades and the healing process can begin.
2. Anger- Feeling angry at others, life, yourself or even at God if you are a person of faith. There is a strong feeling that this loss is extremely unfair. You might ask things like “ why me?” or “why did they deserve to die?”. You might even feel angry at the person who passed away.
3. Bargaining- Attempting to negotiate through the loss or in anticipation of the loss. You might find yourself wondering what you could have done more and asking lots of “what if” questions. This can cause you to struggle with feelings of guilt.
4. Depression- Feelings of extreme low mood and hopelessness is the most common way that people think about grief. You might feel sad, numb, and find it hard to face the world and/or feel quite anxious or fearful. Some people might also have suicidal feelings and struggle to find hope after the loss.
5. Acceptance- This is where you come to terms with the loss through recognising that the thing or person will never come back, and you will be okay. You can start to adjust to the new reality without them. Difficult days will come, but eventually the good days will outnumber the bad days.
The duration of grief is different for every person. This also depends on factors such as your attachment to the thing or person, your relationship with them and the circumstances surrounding the loss.
It felt as though something was missing, like I had lost some cosmic definition to who I was without this person with me. All I wanted to do was reach out and tell them how I felt, the only person I wanted to talk to about their death was them, but they weren’t there, that took a long time to understand.
Grace – Mindsum Peer Support worker
Grief/Loss and mental health
Grief itself is not a mental illness. Going through extreme distress following a loss is normal. With time the intense feelings of grief become less intense, and you can continue on with life. You might need further support if you continue to struggle with grief and it does not improve after a long period of time.
Some signs that you might not be coping well with grief or experiencing what is known as ‘unresolved’ or ‘complicated grief’ can include:
- The sense of disbelief that doesn’t gets better with time
- Constantly thinking about the situation or the person
- A low mood that doesn’t get better with time
- Going out of your way to avoid reminders of the situation or person
- Persistent suicidal thoughts and plans
- A constant feeling hopelessness that doesn’t get better with time
- Withdrawing more from others overtime
If you are struggling with feelings of grief, just know that you don’t have to go through it alone. You can choose to reach out to people who are willing to help you get through this difficult process. Reaching out to others including professionals can be very helpful for you, especially if the feelings of grief are not improving overtime.
Where or with whom to get help?
If you are struggling to the point that you are having thoughts of hurting yourself, please call 999 as soon as possible. Here are some things that you can keep in mind that might help you through the process of grief:
Allow yourself to feel
It is important to allow yourself to feel whatever emotions that come up. Some people might try to suppress certain feelings because they might think that it is not right for them to feel certain emotions, but it is normal to go through a mixture of emotions. As you allow yourself to feel, you allow your mind to process the loss and move closer towards healing.
Find ways to speak about the person or event. It helps to acknowledge their existence, the good times as well as the bad. For me, I found writing the person a letter, and making a sketch for them helped me process my thoughts and feelings around their passing.
Grace – Mindsum Peer Support worker
Take extra care of your body
This is the time to be intentional about your self-care. Take extra steps to take care of your physical body. Maintain your daily hygiene and try to engage in some exercise to get your body moving. If it is too hard, you can ask a friend or family member to do it with you.
Talk to someone
Talking to a loved one about what you are going through can really help during this time. They might not always have the right words to say to make you feel better, but they can listen and just be present with you, so you don’t have to go through it all alone.
Working with a counsellor or therapist can help you through the difficult feelings of grief, especially if you are having a hard time with it and it is not getting better with time. There are specialist therapies that focus on grief and can allow you to work through and process the grief in a healthy way.
You can book a free initial consultation with with a qualified mental health professional through our online service.
If you would like to get in touch with organisations that provide specialist services for grief, you can visit or contact:
Child Bereavement UK – a charity that supports children and young people (up to 25 years) and their families when a child is grieving, or when a child dies.
Winston Wish – a charity that provides emotional and practical support for bereaved children, young people, and those who care for them.
Hope Again – a website for young people going through bereavement which offers support, advice, and signposting to other services.
You can read and access resources about grief/loss on the Young Minds website. Click here to access the link.
You can read and access resources about bereavement on the Mind website. Click here to access the link.
You can read useful practical information on getting through grief/loss on the NHS website. Click here to access the link.