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 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:
Mygrief.caCanadian Virtual Hospice
MyGrief.ca can help you understand grief and work through some of the difficult issues you may be facing.
Psychological First Aid pocket guideRed Cross
This exciting program option teaches everyone how to help others experiencing loss, grief and stress, and also self-care.
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.
Canadian Mental Health Association - Colchester East Hants Branch
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Canadian Mental Health Association - Halifax-Dartmouth Branch
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Canadian Mental Health Association - Nova Scotia Division
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Healthy Minds Cooperative
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Hope for Wellness HelpLine
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Eskasoni Mental Health
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Caregivers Nova Scotia
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Kids Help Phone
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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
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Veterans Affairs Canada Assitance 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
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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 Operational Stress Injury (OSI) Clinic provides mental health services to Veterans, eligible members of the Canadian Forces (CF), RCMP members and former members, who have...
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...