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.
Kids Help PhoneKids Help Phone
Kids Help Phone is Canada’s only 24/7 e-mental health service offering free, confidential support to young people in English and French. Services include mental health tips and info, crisis support, professional counselling, quizzes, games and...
Wellness Together CanadaWellness 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:
- Immediate text support
Mygrief.caCanadian Virtual Hospice
MyGrief.ca is an online resource to help people move through their grief from the comfort of their own home, at their own pace. It can help you understand your grief and approach some of the most difficult questions that may arise. It was developed...
Psychological First Aid pocket guideRed Cross
This booklet is not intended to replace proper Psychological First Aid training.
Therapy Assistance Online (TAO)Therapy Assistance Online
Online library of engaging, interactive programs to learn life skills and to help you bounce back from disappointments or stumbling blocks in life. As you watch videos and engage with our interactive components, you'll gain the knowledge, self...
Access Wellness Nova Scotia
Access Wellness is a free single-session supportive counselling service for individuals, couples or families.
Sessions can be held over the phone, online with video, or in-person. People can speak with a qualified professional and learn...
Peer Support Phone Service
The Peer Support Phone Service is a toll-free, non-crisis, province wide service, available to all Nova Scotians 18 years of age or older. It is staffed by trained peer supporters, who have personal or family-based lived experience with mental...
Union of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq - Mental Wellness Team
The Union of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq Mental Wellness Team provides case management and service navigation for First Nations persons of all ages seeking mental wellness services.
We work in collaboration with relevant community and provincial...
Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line
The Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line is available 24-hours a day for anyone experiencing pain or distress as a result of their residential school experience. Call 1-866-925-4419.
There are no fees associated with use and this service is...
Canadian Mental Health Association - Colchester East Hants Branch
The Canadian Mental Health Association, Colchester East Hants Branch provides public education, advocacy, and a resource center to support the resiliency and recovery of...
Canadian Mental Health Association - Halifax-Dartmouth Branch
The Canadian Mental Health Association, Halifax-Dartmouth Branch works at the community level and facilitates access to the resources people require to maintain and improve...
Canadian Mental Health Association - Nova Scotia Division
Canadian Mental Health Associations in Nova Scotia are the oldest community-based mental health and addictions charitable organizations in the province, founded in 1908. The...
Healthy Minds Cooperative
Healthy Minds Cooperative is an innovative mental health cooperative that provides a variety of peer-based services to people with lived experience of mental health issues and...
Hope for Wellness HelpLine
The Hope for Wellness HelpLine offers immediate mental health counselling and crisis intervention to all Indigenous peoples across Canada. Experienced and culturally competent...
Eskasoni Mental Health
Eskasoni Mental Health Services (EMHS) provides a wide range of services to the Mi’kmaq people of Eskasoni, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. The Tui'kn Residential School Survivor...
Caregivers Nova Scotia
Caregivers Nova Scotia provides free programs, services, information, and advocacy for family and friend caregivers. We are dedicated to providing recognition and practical assistance to friends and family giving care.
Kids Help Phone
Kids Help Phone is Canada’s only 24/7, national support service. We offer professional counselling, information and referrals and volunteer-led, text-based support to young...
211 is a free, confidential information and referral service that can connect you to thousands of programs and services offered by local community groups, nonprofits and government departments across Nova Scotia, 24/7.
Canadian Forces Morale and Welfare Services - Mental Health Programs and Services
Canadian Forces Morale and Welfare Services (CFMWS) is responsible for administering Non-Public Property (NPP) on behalf of the Chief of the Defence Staff and for delivering...
Veterans Affairs Canada Assistance Service
Veterans Affairs provide targeted services and benefits to improve well-being including support and services related to your physical and mental health and wellness.The VAC...
Phoenix Centre for Youth
Phoenix Centre for Youth is a walk-in centre that helps youth ages 12-24 years who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless in their day-to-day lives. Services offered are...
Health Psychology offers psychological interventions for those with chronic and acute health conditions. The main focus is on the patient's mental and emotional reaction to an illness or their recovery from an illness.
First Responders Assist
This service will offer short-term counselling and supportive services, including follow up if needed, for first responders and their families impacted by the tragedies of...
School Mental Health (SchoolsPlus)
The school mental health clinicians provide individual and group therapy, mental health and addictions education for school staff and consultation services. Clinicians are on...
Nova Scotia Operational Stress Injury (OSI) Clinic
The Nova Scotia Operational Stress Injury Clinic (NSOSIC) belongs to a national network of OSI Clinics funded by Veterans Affairs Canada. The clinic provides mental health...
Provincial Mental Health and Addictions Crisis Line
The Provincial Mental Health and Addictions Crisis Line provides crisis intervention for children, youth and adults experiencing a mental health crisis or mental distress.
First Nations Services
Mental Health clinicians work as part of the first nations health care team in several first nations communities. The Mental Health Clinician provides assessment, diagnosis...
Adult Community Mental Health and Addictions Services
Community Mental Health and Addictions includes a team of mental health and addictions professionals who provide services on an outpatient basis. The team provides assessment...
Child and Adolescent Services
Child and Adolescent Services/Child Youth and Family/Child and Adolescent Outpatient Clinical Services provide mental health and addiction services to children and youth...