Decoding Loss and Grief

Updated: Aug 11, 2021

Loss is an inevitable and universal experience. We all experience many types of loss in our lifetime.

Some of the types of losses we experience include:

  • Death of family members, friends, and pets

  • Divorce or end of significant relationships

  • Moving

  • Retirement

  • Children leaving home

  • Graduation

  • Getting married

  • Loss of job/income

  • Change in financial status - good or bad

  • Major health problems and changes

  • Legal problems

  • Loss of trust

  • Loss of safety

  • Loss of full control through illness, accidents, or other major changes

  • Loss of hopes, dreams and expectations

  • Loss of traditions and cultures

  • Loss of family ties or support

  • Loss of social connections and activities

  • Loss of freely moving about/travelling.

  • Loss of routine

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many layers of losses. It is easy to acknowledge the obvious losses - death of loved ones, losing your house, job, or income. It’s also important to acknowledge the not so obvious ones – loss of family/social connections and activities, loss of safety, loss of freely moving about/travelling, loss of routine. These also impact us mentally and emotionally and cause us to grieve.


When we experience a loss we grieve that loss. We grieve the end or change of any relationship, pattern of behavior, or activity that was emotionally significant to us. Grief is a natural response to loss and is our normal emotional response.

"Girl and Grief" by x1klima is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

When we grieve, we have emotional, mental, physical, and behavioural responses.

The emotional responses can include sadness, depression, anxiety, fear, guilt, anger, irritability, shock.

The mental responses can include reduced concentration, forgetfulness, confusion, indecisiveness, denial, detachment, disorganization.

The physical responses can include numbness, loss of appetite, gastro-intestinal problems, insomnia, nightmares, fatigue, lack of energy, restlessness.

The behavioral responses can include tearfulness, withdrawal or isolating self, increased consumption of food and alcohol, using drugs, overusing medication, increased spending, increased tendency to blame or criticize people close to us, overworking or underworking, increased use of TV, internet, social media, or video games.

How we grieve is unique. Our grieving response is unique, even when we have had the same loss as someone else. How we grieve is based on the relationship we had with the person or activity or thing that we lost, the intensity of the attachment, the duration of the relationship, our personalities, our experiences. Therefore, it is important not to compare our grieving response to others, or to judge our grieving response or that of others.

Just as our grieving response is unique, we also grieve different types of losses differently. Grief can be complicated by traumatic losses, eg, suicide, homicide, miscarriage, accidents, the sudden and unexpected end of a relationship, losing a relationship because of infidelity.

We Are Not Taught How To Cope With Loss And Grief

In our society, we are generally not taught how to cope with loss and grief. As a result, we do not know how to support ourselves when we grieve and we do not know how to support others who are grieving. Below are some helpful tips to support yourself when you are grieving and to support others who are grieving.

How To Support Yourself When You're Grieving

Acknowledge your feelings. When you are grieving, it is important to pay attention to and acknowledge your feelings and reactions, and do not criticize yourself for having the feelings and reactions that you have. Be kind to yourself and experience your feelings without self-criticism.

Do not isolate yourself. It is also important to maintain some social activities. Reach out to and spend time with others - people do care. Take time to talk about your emotional, mental, physical, and behavioral reactions to someone close to you and whom you trust - talking is healing.

Take care of your health. Eat regular, well-balanced meals, and participate in moderate exercise, for example, walking. Do not try to numb the pain of your loss by overeating, using substances, overusing TV, internet, or social media. Also, reduce sources of stress in your life for a while, and take time to rest, and to do relaxing activities.

Seek Support. Take the actions that will help you heal the pain of your loss by reaching out to a therapist, a grief counselor, or a religious leader.

"in grief''' by focus2capture is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

How To Support Others Who Are Grieving

Just as it is important to know how to support yourself when you are grieving, it is equally important to know how to support others who are grieving. When someone is sharing with you about a loss, it is important to listen attentively and show through your facial expression and body posture that you are listening and empathizing. Pay attention to and acknowledge the person’s pain and other emotional responses, and stay away from responding with intellectual comments and a lot of advice. Listen to whatever the person needs to say, however many times it needs to be said.

Some Helpful Statements To Say To Those Who Are Grieving

When you are supporting someone who is grieving, it is helpful to make statements that will resonate with what the person is experiencing emotionally and mentally:

I am sorry for your loss.

I am sorry to hear about what you are going through.

How are you coping with all of this?

I’m here and I want to listen.

Please tell me what you’re feeling.

This must be difficult/painful for you.

You must really be hurting.

What is the hardest part for you?

What Not To Say To Those Who Are Gr