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About This Resource

What It Does

This article talks about:

Types of loss that can cause us to grieve
Our emotional responses to grief

How It Helps

This resource can help you:

Know what to expect after you've lost someone
Be aware of unexpected responses you may have when you've experienced loss

This article talks about:

Types of loss that can cause us to grieve
Our emotional responses to grief

This resource can help you:

Know what to expect after you've lost someone
Be aware of unexpected responses you may have when you've experienced loss
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The loss of someone or something important is something we all experience in life. However, it is often unexpected and almost always painful. The pain and sadness you feel are normal parts of the grieving process and will change over time. Right now, you may be thinking that the pain will never fade. Feeling this way is a normal part of the grieving process. It should be recognized as something you are going to experience for a while.

There is no right or wrong way to grieve. The way we grieve, and the time it takes, are different for everyone. Your experience is unique to you. The way you grieve depends on your personality, your family or support network, how you tend to cope with adversity, your faith (if you are a religious or spiritual person), and the type of loss you’ve experienced.

Grief is defined as intense sorrow, mainly caused by someone’s death. It is the way we process the loss of someone or something important to us. The greater the loss, the more painful grief can be. Most people think that grief only occurs when someone loses a person in their life. But in fact, many types of loss can cause grief.

Losses associated with grieving

The term “loss” can have a broad meaning. Feelings of loss can be overwhelming and overpowering. The term can be applied to many different contexts. The table below shows some different meanings and interpretations of loss.

Intro to coping with grief and loss - Content Image

Emotions and Manifestations

Shock and Numbness

This is a state of disbelief. It is difficult to accept the loss. You may understand it, but you can’t accept it. You may be thinking things like "Is this some kind of joke?" "Is this really happening?" or "This is just a nightmare. It can’t be real."


The focus here is on avoiding the pain. You might carry on with your normal life as if nothing has happened. This might be based on the idea that "If I don’t accept it or acknowledge the loss, it isn’t real." This is okay at first, but it will eventually be necessary to accept the loss. Then you can start to move forward.


You may experience difficulty focusing, even on simple tasks. This can disrupt work and study. You may be forgetful or unable to make decisions.

Anger and Resentment

This can be expressed in many different forms. It may come out as rage, irritability, agitation, or frustration. It could be aggression or passive aggression. You may be mad at the loved one who died, or at the whole situation. You may be angry at others who seem to be able to go on with their lives as if nothing bad has happened.


You may find yourself jealous of others who are not going through similar things. If you have experienced the loss of a job, illness, or other significant losses, it is natural to experience feelings of resentment towards others.


It's not uncommon to experience feelings of guilt after a loss. You might feel like you are somehow responsible because you did not do something you should have, or because you couldn’t prevent the loss. It can be expressed as making statements that begin with "what if..." or "if only..." You may imagine what you should or should not have done. You may run through many scenarios in your head and imagine how things could have been different.


Relief and guilt sometimes go together. After a tragedy, you may feel relief that you are alive and safe. This relief can then leave you feeling guilty. Feeling relief is natural and should not be a source of guilt.


You may find yourself in a state of panic or fear. Increased anxiety may be due to feeling you have no control over what is happening. You might also feel that you spent all your energy on trying to cope, and you have nothing left to deal with anything else. You might feel vulnerable and insecure, waiting for the next loss. You may worry about being able to go on with your life.


Hurt and pain are normal, healthy emotions to feel after a loss. You may have an intense longing to see the person again or get them back. If you’ve lost a relationship or job, you may wish you could go back.


Feelings of emptiness, aloneness, isolation, or abandonment can be intense. You may believe no one can understand what you are going through. You might also feel like you cannot relate to anyone else.


You may experience less desire to spend time with others or do things you used to enjoy. You may stop answering the phone and step away from friends and family. This is usually temporary. It is common to withdraw after going through loss.

There is a wide range of emotions and reactions that people experience when dealing with loss and grief. The important thing is to understand your grieving process and give yourself permission to feel this way. Don’t be surprised if you recognize all of these reactions in yourself.