Grief is the mix of thoughts, feelings, and actions that happens when we lose something—usually a loved one. Any loss can cause grief, including the loss of a relationship, your health, your job, or a dream. Often, the pain of loss can feel overwhelming. You may experience all kinds of difficult and unexpected emotions—shock, anger, guilt, and profound sadness. The pain of grief can disrupt your physical health, making it difficult to sleep, eat, or even think straight.
Grief is difficult, but there are things you can do to work your way through the natural grief experience. Talking about your loss, getting support from family and friends, and bereavement support can all help.
What is normal?
Grief is a natural response to loss. It’s the emotional suffering you feel when something or someone you love is taken away. The more significant the loss, the more intense your grief will be. Most people experiencing normal grief and bereavement have a period of sorrow and even guilt or anger. Gradually these feelings ease, and it's possible to accept the loss and move forward.
What are common signs and symptoms?
For some people, the feelings of loss don't improve even after time passes. This is known as complicated grief. In complicated grief, painful emotions are so long lasting and severe that you have trouble resuming your own life. Signs of complicated grief may include:
- Intense sorrow, pain, and rumination over the loss
- Focus on little else but your loss
- Extreme focus on reminders of the loved one or excessive avoidance of reminders
- Intense and persistent longing or pining for the deceased
- Problems accepting the death
- Numbness or detachment
- Bitterness about your loss
- Feeling that life holds no meaning or purpose
- Lack of trust in others
- Inability to enjoy life or think back on positive experiences with your loved one
- Trouble carrying out normal routines
- Isolation from others
- Depression, deep sadness, guilt, or self-blame
Should I seek help?
Contact your doctor or a mental health professional if you have intense grief and problems functioning that don't improve at least one year after the passing of your loved one.
If you think you may hurt yourself or attempt suicide, seek emergency treatment immediately—call 911 or the Nova Scotia Mental Health Crisis line at 1-888-429-8167.
Wellness Together Canada
Wellness Together Canada is a mental health and substance use website to support people across Canada and Canadians living abroad in both official languages. They provide the following resources for you at no cost:
MyGrief.ca can help you understand grief and work through some of the difficult issues you may be facing.
Psychological First Aid pocket guide
This exciting program option teaches everyone how to help others experiencing loss, grief and stress, and also self-care.
Therapy Assistance Online (TAO)
Online library of engaging, interactive programs to learn life skills and to help you bounce back from disappointments or stumbling blocks in life.
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