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Grief- as a journey to new self

Grief and it's Faces

There are several ways to define loss. Loss is a state of being without something. When an incident occurs that is not recognized as a loss, people dispute it and try to filter it out when grief happens. When you move homes, stop communicating with a long-time friend, start a new career, break up with a love partner, your children leave home, have a baby, lose your phone, and many other happy and tragic life events, you may experience a sense of loss. Many occurrences might have a sense of loss to them. A loss happens when persons involved regard an occurrence to be bad, resulting in long-term changes in social circumstances, relationships, or one's perspective of the world and oneself. The most common event that is thought of as a loss is death, but there are many more.

If we bifurcate the loss in its types then it divides into tangible loss and intangible loss. Tangible loss includes the loss of something personal (such as domestic violence, abuse etc.), interpersonal loss (such as ending a friendship, death of a loved one etc,), materialistic loss (losing a job, losing a tender, becoming homeless etc,) and symbolic loss (such as losses related to role definition, home culture etc,). The other bifurcated branch of loss is called the intangible loss. Intangible loss mostly includes psychological or social losses. These include losses, changes in one’s self-worth, changes in identity etc.

As a sense of loss the first emotion that comes to one’s mind is grief. We, as living beings, are a reservoir for a plethora of emotions. Every emotion has a connection with what we had, are or will experience in a situation. Thus, when we loose something precious or something significant (be it a person, object, opportunity or situation), we tend to indulge in a process of grieving. These feelings of loss are feelings which are personal to every individual, which means that the significance of the loss also impacts every individual differently depending on the importance and hence, the grieving period also differentiates for every individual even in the same situation.

Let’s understand it with an example; So recently you heard that your friend lost his/her pet to whom he/she was closely attached to. You also have cherished good memories with your friend’s pet. In this situation, though you had an emotional connection with the pet, you would not experience the same level of grief that your friend is experiencing. This is because the level of importance of the pet was more in your friend’s life than in yours.

If we define grief in proper psychological form as American Psychologist Association- “the anguish experienced after significant loss, usually the death of a beloved person. Grief is often distinguished from bereavement and mourning. Not all bereavements result in a strong grief response, and not all grief is given public expression (see disenfranchised grief). Grief often includes physiological distress, separation anxiety, confusion, yearning, obsessive dwelling on the past, and apprehension about the future. Intense grief can become life-threatening through disruption of the immune system, self-neglect, and suicidal thoughts. Grief may also take the form of regret for something lost, remorse for something done, or sorrow for a mishap to oneself.”

In layman terms, grief is the emotion that is felt on the significant loss. Grief mostly experienced or has been observed being experienced usually on the loss of your loved one. Grief as a process involves distress that takes a physiological form such as headache, the person feels the pangs of separation which causes the rise in anxiety, the person is confused to what the sudden situation has fallen over him/her, denies with the present happenings, feels all chaotic emotionally, there is casatte of old memories or all the experiences shared playing in one’s mind to the extent that the person might feel an obsessive urge to not get over them, and a fear of what the future holds for them or what would their motive of life be with the happening of the significant loss. This grief period, as per the definition, if it takes an intense form can have a threat to one’s life such as the person might damage one’s immune system, might harm oneself or starts neglecting the importance to one’s self.

Grief and joy though antagonistic to each other walks hand in hand. You can experience both happiness and grief at the exact same time. What is that quote by Walt Whitman? “Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.” That statement expresses grief nicely. Grief may coexist with happiness or, alternatively with rage, o r with apprehension or thankfulness. This is what makes grieving so difficult. It's made much more difficult by the sheer number of events, moments, and memories that might trigger sadness. Grief does not need the death of someone you care about, you'll get to experience grief far sooner if you have regrets, physical separation, or lose your job, house, or even your gorgeous yard. There are no rules in this game. Our brains are as complex as the emotions they produce, and anything may trigger grief.

Because grief can be caused by so many events and situations, it is difficult to give grief only one definition. Instead, let’s look at the various types of grief which help to bucket the emotion properly based on the situation.

Although grief is a universal experience, the ways in which it occurs are not universally agreed upon. In fact, there is considerable controversy about the "normal" duration of grief, its expected outcome, and its course. Although most grieving adults will achieve a sense of normalcy at some point, others seem not to do so. Continuing impairment by grief raises a question: Is the experience qualitatively different from normal grief or is it different only in degree?

Sometimes because we don’t acknowledge the loss we do not allow ourselves to experience the grief. We question it and undermine it. In addition it is sometimes not socially acceptable. People expect happiness when a baby is born, or when we get a new job. We are not allowed to feel a sense of loss and not allowed to grieve that loss. When it is socially accepted to experience a loss like in the breakup of a relationship or the death of a loved one, we are still expected to experience it in a predetermined way. Sometimes we are ok at a time when it’s expected that we’ll feel sad or sad when there is no reason for sadness.

Many folklores tell us about how grief has always been a part of life. Everyone has to face it some day or the other. The Buddhist parable “The mustard seed” talks of the same beautifully.

There was a rich man who found his gold suddenly transformed into ashes; and he took to his bed and refused all food. A friend, hearing of his sickness, visited the rich man and learned the cause of his grief. And the friend said: "Thou didst not make good use of their wealth. When thou didst hoard it up it was not better than ashes. Now heed my advice. Spread mats in the bazaar; pile up these ashes, and pretend to trade with them." The rich man did as his friend had told him, and when his neighbors asked him, "Why sellest thou ashes?" he said: "I offer my goods for sale."

After some time a young girl, named Kisa Gotami, an orphan and very poor, passed by, and seeing the rich man in the bazaar, said: "My lord, why pilest thou thus up gold and silver for sale?" And the rich man said: "Wilt thou please hand me that gold and silver?" And Kisa Gotami took up a handful of ashes, and lo! they changed back into gold. Considering that Kisa Gotami had the mental eye of spiritual knowledge and saw the real worth of things, the rich man gave her in marriage to his son, and he said: "With many, gold is no better than ashes, but with Kisa Gotami ashes become pure gold." Kisa Gotami had an only son, and he died. In her grief she carried the dead child to all her neighbors, asking them for medicine, and the people said: "She has lost her senses. The boy is dead. At length Kisa Gotami met a man who replied to her request: "I cannot give the medicine for thy child, but I know a physician who can." The girl said: "Pray tell me, sir; who is it?" And the man replied: "Go to Sakyamuni, the Buddha."

Kisa Gotami repaired to the Buddha and cried: "Lord and Master, give me the medicine that will cure my boy." The Buddha answered: "I want a handful of mustard-seed." And when the girl in her joy promised to procure it, the Buddha added: "The mustard-seed must be taken from a house where no one has lost a child, husband, parent, or friend." Poor Kisa Gotami now went from house to house, and the people pitied her and said: "Here is mustard-seed; take it!" But when she asked ``Did a son or daughter, a father or mother, die in your family?" They answered her: "Alas the living are few, but the dead are many. Do not remind us of our deepest grief." And there was no house but some beloved one had died in it. Kisa Gotami became weary and hopeless, and sat down at the wayside, watching the lights of the city, as they flickered up and were extinguished again. At last the darkness of the night reigned everywhere. And she considered the fate of men, that their lives flicker up and are extinguished. And she thought to herself: "How selfish am I in my grief! Death is common to all; yet in this valley of desolation there is a path that leads him to immortality who has surrendered all selfishness." Putting away the selfishness of her affection for her child, Kisa Gotami had the dead body buried in the forest. Returning to the Buddha, she took refuge in him and found comfort in the Dharma, which is a balm that will soothe all the pains of our troubled hearts.

The Buddha said: "The life of mortals in this world is troubled and brief and combined with pain. For there is not any means by which those that have been born can avoid dying; after reaching old age there is death; of such a nature are living beings. As ripe fruits are early in danger of falling, so mortals when born are always in danger of death. As all earthen vessels made by the potter end in being broken, so is the life of mortals. Both young and adult, both those who are fools and those who are wise, all fall into the power of death; all are subject to death.

"Of those who, overcome by death, depart from life, a father cannot save his son, nor kinsmen their relations. Mark I while relatives are looking on and lamenting deeply, one by one mortals are carried off, like an ox that is led to the slaughter. So the world is afflicted with death and decay, therefore the wise do not grieve, knowing the terms of the world. In whatever manner people think a thing will come to pass, it is often different when it happens, and great is the disappointment; see, such are the terms of the world.

"He who seeks peace should draw out the arrow of lamentation, complaint, and grief. He who has drawn out the arrow and has become composed will obtain peace of mind; he who has overcome all sorrow will become free from sorrow, and be blessed."

Most people associate the need to grieve with the death of a loved one and expect a socially acceptable natural progression of grieving. Grief is a reaction to a loss. Grief affects us in emotional, physical, cognitive, behavioural and social ways. It is multifaceted and seeps into all aspects of our lives. When faced with a loss and the subsequent grief most people present with stages of grief. These stages are not unidirectional or sequential but more like waves of grief that flow between one or more feelings. Unfortunately that is how loss and grief work.

There are some universal rules. You’ll feel angry and be in shock. You’ll cry sometimes and be ok at other times but when these times are, vary. They are different for different people. And how long the sense of loss and grief last are also individualised. Sometimes we tend to rush it. We don’t like the pain and try various methods to stop the pain. Or we think there is something that is wrong with us for still grieving when it is expected that we should be fine by now. There just seems to be too much pressure in how and when we should feel a sense of loss and grieve this loss. There are too many rules and expectations. So much so that sometimes it’s easier to pretend we’re ok, numb the pain, redirect the difficult feelings instead of working them out.

The following are the types of losses

There are various types of losses that a person can feel throughout their life. Some of them may be:


It is a kind of loss which is intense as it involves many of life’s anchors and stabilisers. It usually includes loss of status, ancestry, financial assurance, companionships, support pillars, language, self image, cultural identity etc. .

Physical Losses:

This is a type of loss which emerges from genuine sickness or findings which foreshadow critical changes to an individual's life, loss of appendages or other substantial capacities like sight, hearing,movement, etc. Remembered for this heading are loss coming about because of huge changes in weight, critical changes in actual appearance, the deficiency of youth and life and, at last, a loss which comes about because of age. The loss chaperon after aging incorporates both the physical loss of aging - bombing organs, barrenness and other broken conditions, and understanding the concept of mortality and demise.

Relationship Losses:

This loss result from separation or relationship separation, misfortunes which result from youngsters venturing out from home (the a feeling of emptiness after the last kid left home), loss with the ending of close relationships because of conflicts or imigration or demise, and, at last, changes in family and social associations because of topographical moves (see above under iimigtation)

Psychological Losses:

Obviously, all losses are epitomized under the rubric of psychological loss however it merits referencing here, loss of working vocation because of loss of occupation following conservation, or sifting of company , constrained retraining, taking exit from the workforce, migration, or from some other similar sort of situation.

Sundry Losses:

This heading accepts certain misfortunes previously referenced under imigration - that of the deficiency of status. This kind of misfortune which is regular in imigration, additionally might be suffered because of changes in one's workplace - downgrade or organization changes or may result from some other material change in situation, for example, one's companion or one's kids unexpectedly getting especially monetarily successful. Thus, as well, if there are material changes in the commercial center, or in one's groups of friends. Under this head may likewise be referenced monetary misfortunes coming about because of market movements, chapter 11 and so forth.

Losses of Freedom:

losses usually result from detainment, however this kind of misfortune can likewise emerge from severe clinical changes in one's individual. Not exclusively is the individual therapeutically influenced subject to this sort of loss ; so too is the parental figure. loss of this kind happens additionally with the introduction of a youngster or result from different changes in the family. At last, this kind of loss regularly emerges from financial difficulty.

Types of Grief:

Normal grief:

As opposed to what the name may recommend, there truly are no set rules to characterize ordinary anguish as far as timetables or seriousness of distress. All things being equal, consider typical sorrow any reaction that takes after what you may anticipate anguish to resemble (if that bodes well). Numerous individuals characterize ordinary sadness as the capacity to move towards acknowledgment of loss . With this comes a progressive diminishing in the force of feelings. The individuals who experience typical sadness can keep on working in their fundamental day by day exercises.

Anticipatory Mourning:

At the point when an individual or family is anticipating passing, it is entirely expected to start to expect how one will respond and adapt when that individual in the long run kicks the bucket. Numerous relatives will attempt to imagine their existence without that individual and intellectually play out potential situations, which may incorporate sorrow responses and ways they will grieve and change after the passing.

Expectant grieving incorporates sensations of loss , worry for the withering individual, adjusting clashing requests and getting ready for death. Expectant grieving is a characteristic cycle that empowers the family more opportunity to gradually plan for the truth of the loss. Individuals are frequently ready to finish incomplete "business" with the withering individual (for instance, saying "farewell," "I love you," or "I excuse you").

Sudden Loss:

Despondency experienced after an abrupt, startling passing is not the same as expectant grieving. Abrupt, surprising lodd may surpass the adapting capacities of an individual, which frequently brings about sensations of being overpowered or potentially incapable to work. Despite the fact that one might have the option to recognize that loss has happened, the full effect of misfortune may take any longer to completely understand than on account of a normal misfortune.

Delayed grief:

Deferred sorrow happens when responses and reactions are deferred or delayed or put on pause, until the not too distant future. The mind knows when we can't adapt to exceptional feelings and helps with setting the agony to the side until we can manage it. This kind of anguish might be started by another significant life occasion or something that appears to be irrelevant. Responses can be extreme to the current circumstance and the individual may not at first understand the postponed misery is the genuine justification getting so enthusiastic.

Complicated grief:

It alludes to an ordinary distress that gets serious in life span and altogether weakens the capacity to work. It may very well be hard to decide when distress has endured excessively long. Other contributing components in diagnosing muddled or delayed pain incorporates taking a gander at the idea of loss i.e whether it was abrupt, fierce or different, the relationship, character, beneficial encounters and other social issues. Some admonition signs that are capable during muddled misery incorporate foolish conduct, profound and determined sensations of blame, low confidence, brutal upheavals or extremist way of life changes

Prolonged Grief :

Distress responses that are delayed and extraordinary. The mourner is debilitated by despondency and every day work is hindered on a drawn out premise. The mourner invests a lot of energy mulling over death, aching for gathering, and can't conform to existence without the person.

Exaggerated Grief:

A staggering heightening of typical distress responses that may deteriorate over the long haul. Described by outrageous and inordinate melancholy responses potentially to incorporate bad dreams, pointless practices, drug misuse, considerations of self destruction, unusual feelings of dread, and the turn of events or development of mental issues

Masked Grief:

Distress responses that disable typical working anyway the individual can't perceive these side effects and practices are identified with the misfortune. Indications are regularly concealed as either actual side effects or other maladaptive practices.

Abbreviated Grief:

A brief anguish reaction. The lamenting interaction regularly appears to be more limited in light of the fact that the part of the expired is promptly filled by somebody/something else*, in light of the fact that there was little connection to the perished, or potentially the individual can acknowledge and incorporate the misfortune rapidly because of 'Expectant Grief'.

*So, I was shocked to track down the most well-known clarification for shortened anguish was because of "substitution of the expired, for example, with a remarriage". What the what? I see what they are getting at and I assume for a little group of widows/single men this could be valid, however as a speculation this simply appears to be ludicrous. Getting remarried after the passing of a mate is neither a 'substitution' nor the most optimized plan of attack to end your sorrow.

Absent Grief:

This is the point at which the dispossessed gives positively no indications of distress and goes about like nothing has occurred. Portrayed by complete stun or disavowal, particularly notwithstanding an unexpected misfortune. This becomes concerning when it continues for an all-encompassing timeframe. This doesn't represent contrasts by the way we lament and it's critical to take note of that since you can't tell somebody is lamenting doesn't mean they aren't.

Symptoms of Grief :

Grief is the normal and natural response to the loss of someone or something important to you. It is a natural part of life.

Grief reactions may include:

  • Feeling vacant and numb, as though you are in a condition of shock.

  • physical reactions like queasiness, inconvenience breathing, crying, disarray, absence of energy, dry mouth, or changes in resting and eating designs.

  • Outrage—at a circumstance, an individual or by and large.

  • Blame about what you did or didn't do.

  • Withdrawal from family, companions and basic exercises.

  • Trouble centering, working or deciding.

  • Inquiries regarding confidence or otherworldliness; difficulties to the significance, worth and reason you find throughout everyday life

Moaning, wailing, crying, and sobbing are normal and typical actual indications of despondency. Some mental investigations show that these types of feeling are an important actual arrival of stress and pity systems. Stress and bitterness that are not soothed emerge in other actual impacts like, not having the option to focus on present insight, absence of fixation, helpless memory, upset rest designs like a sleeping disorder, almost no hunger, abuse medications or liquor, or potentially contemplations of self destruction. Therapists and clinical specialists have recognized some normal actual indications of lamenting which include: snugness in the throat, a stifling or choking out feeling, windedness, murmuring, void stomach feeling, absence of strong force, pressure, torment, and obliviousness. These are physiological and additionally biochemical responses. Sadness can have major actual wellbeing results. Sadness keeps going as long as it takes to conform to the progressions in your day to day existence after your loss. This can be for quite a long time, or even years. Distress has no schedule; contemplations, feelings, practices and different reactions may travel every which way.

Stages of Grief:

The process of grieving for the significant loses in life is important as it opens the door of venting our emotions. This process of venting out the emotions not only help to lighten the burden of pain but also adds to the process of overcoming all the challenges to re-invest the energy. The process of grieving helps in losing the ties to the past. Healthy grieving had been found to be an agent as remembrance of the importance of the cause of grief but with a newfound sense of peace, rather than searing pain. You can see how Harry Potter became determined to shed the darkness after seeing the sacrifices and loses of his loved ones around him to save him.

A book under the title On Death & Dying was published in 1969. The book was written by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. Through her seminal book she had made an attempt to recognise the ‘five stages of grief’ that we all go through as a process of grieving. The wordplay in the book done by her has been quite an artwork. Despite the sensitivity and sense of compassion of the concept, she has expressed the revolutionary idea adopting a bold and outspoken approach.

As discussed above, grief is personal to everyone. There cannot be comparisons to the measures or levels of grief a person suffers from. Even the way people behave while expressing their grieving process also varies from individual to individual. It might happen that someone tends to cry as a grieving process whereas someone needs some alone time with oneself while grieving. Also, it is a free-flowing emotion. There are no boundaries to it, no scheduled time for the emotion to arise. It is more like a wandering emotion, an emotion that ends with insights to the real secrets of lives.

Okay! A lot of philosophy has been talked about grief and its processing. Let’s get to the concretes of it, starting with the five stages of grief that has been discussed by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her book- On Death & Dying, as discussed above. So, the process of grieving was divided by Ross into five stages. The five stages were:

Þ Denial

Þ Anger

Þ Bargaining

Þ Depression

Þ Acceptance

These stages are also sometimes referring to as the DABDA model (on the basis of their initials). The stages of grief were beautifully expressed as different chapters in the book and from the word of stage joining with each level the five levels got their individual independent significance as the part of the process. Though each stage expressed its uniqueness, they together work in a linear form. The stages description is given below:

Stage 1: Denial:

Just imagine, you losing an opportunity for which you had been prepared for an entire year. You put your efforts to get the opportunity but due to some unfortunate circumstances lost the only opportunity you had that would have brought enhancement to your career perspective. What would be your first response to the news of not being able to get the opportunity which is just in your grab? The answer to the question would be we would not believe that the situation happened or the acceptance of the reality would be difficult.

The above answers are what the first stage of grief Denial is all about. While being in the stage of denial you are not in the terms to believe the reality of the loss. As a defence mechanism, your mind to save you from the shock of loss does not accept reality. The physiological changes such as numbness, sudden pain in chest, feeling of shock and burden arises. At this time the aim of the functioning becomes to suppress the emotion.

Stage 2: Anger:

Now imagine, getting in touch with the reality of you missing the opportunity, what would be the first emotion that arises? The emotion of anger would be the first to come to surface. The anger of not getting the opportunity even after the immense amount of hard work.

In the stage of anger, the touch with the reality of the situation happens. The individual might get angry and starts to blame the intrinsic or extrinsic variables for the cause of the loss. The individual in this stage has a difficulty in adjusting with the situation and might be experiencing extreme emotional discomfort because of which this feeling of anger comes to the surface. But remember, this anger that one feels is the process of healing. It helps to open the outlet to let the emotions flow. Anger tends to be the first emotion that is expressed while expressing the emotion of grief or loss. Even the researchers and mental health professionals have found that stage 2 of the grieving process is an important stage. This is because it is an emotion that dissipates quickly but leaves the possibility of better healing.

Stage 3: Bargaining:

Now that you are in touch with reality, you are expressing emotions in the form of anger. Blaming yourself and your luck for the lost opportunity. Now what? Does the grieving process stop here? No, it doesn’t. Now if you take the same situation and keep yourselves in the shoes, what would be your next step? You would be making deals wishing to turn the tables. You might pray to God promising that you would never play video games or some or the other type in hope for things to turn better.

This stage of grieving is known as Bargaining. If we go into the dictionary definition of bargaining, it means to make negotiations in terms and conditions. This is what we do in the stage of grief. We tend to negotiate with the supreme power or power beyond us to turn the conditions the way they were. The act of bargaining is done to reduce or minimise those stings of pain from the loss. The feeling of helplessness makes us perceive that a situation can be under our control when it is beyond our control. This is the stage where we reflect upon our personal faults and shortcomings and make a deal of improvement or prohibit them to get the ‘false hope’. The past memories are reflected back and forth with the regrets on one’s faults and how things could have been better. Guilt is a common wingman of bargaining. This is when you endure the endless “what if '' statements. What if I had left the house 5 minutes sooner – the accident would have never happened. What if I encouraged him to go to the doctor six months ago like I first thought – the cancer could have been found sooner and he could have been saved. Before a loss, it seems like you will do anything if only your loved one would be spared. “Please God, ” you bargain, “I will never be angry at my wife again if you’ll just let her live.” After a loss, bargaining may take the form of a temporary truce. “What if I devote the rest of my life to helping others. Then can I wake up and realize this has all been a bad dream?”

Stage 4: Depression:

Let’s refer back to the example, as a grieving process of losing the opportunity, you are now in touch with the reality. You know that whatever you do, the lost opportunity will not come back. You understand that what’s lost is lost and it will take time for the things to get in place and comfortable. What would be your feelings now? You would probably feel sad and heart-broken. You might have the urge to stay alone.

This is the stage of Depression. Now the reality is dawned upon, your touch with denial and imagination is terminated. You know that bargaining the situation would not turn the tables. There is a feeling of remorse, sadness and feeling of emptiness. At this time an individual tends to remain alone and wants to keep one’s feelings to oneself without expressing to others. Our attention moves into the present. Here the grief takes into a deeper level of sorrow. Here the important thing to understand is that the depression stage of grief is different from the depression in medical terms. If grief is a healing process, depression is one of the many phases that must be taken. Depression is a well-known manifestation of mourning.

Stage 5: Acceptance:

Now that you have been in the state of sadness for the lost opportunity. The phase of being sad and isolation would end soon with you accepting the situation and the loss. At this point of time, you would either strategize new ways to work hard or would look for other alternatives to grab the opportunity whenever it comes. Right?

This stage and the last stage of the grieving process is the stage of Acceptance. Kübler-Ross described acceptance as the final stage of mourning. Not in the sense of "it's okay I lost the opportunity" or "it's okay my spouse died", but rather "I have lost the opportunity this time but next time I will grab it" or "my spouse died, but I'll be ok." Acceptance is sometimes conflated with the idea of being "fine" or "OK" with what has occurred. This isn't the case at all. The majority of individuals never feel OK or all right after losing a loved one. It is the new normal, and we must learn to live with it. Your emotions may begin to settle at this point. You re-enter the real world. You accept the truth that the "new" reality exists. It isn't ideal, but it is something you can live with. It's unquestionably an adjustment and readjustment period. There are good days, awful days, and then good days all over again. It doesn't imply you'll never have another horrible day - where you're uncontrollably upset – just because you've reached this point. The good days, on the other hand, tend to outweigh the bad days. You may begin to emerge from your fog at this point, reengage with friends, and perhaps form new relationships as time passes. You accept that your loved one will never be replaced, yet you continue to go on, develop, and adapt into your new world. We will never be able to replace what has been lost, but we may form new bonds, meaningful relationships, and interdependencies. Rather of ignoring our sensations, we pay attention to them; we move, develop and evolve. We put effort into our connections and our self-relationship. We start to live again, but we can't until we've given sadness its due.

You could start dealing with loss in the bargaining stage and then go on to rage or denial. You may continue in one of the five phases for months but miss the others completely. It's crucial to remember that Kübler-Ross did not intend for the grieving cycle to be a strict sequence of sequential or regularly scheduled phases. It's more of a model or framework than a procedure. A process implies something very definite and constant, but a model indicates something less particular - more of a form or guidance. People do not always go through all five stages of the 'grief cycle,' for example. It's possible that certain phases will be reconsidered. Some phases may not be encountered at all. You could question what the point of the model is if it may vary so much from person to person in this way. The concept recognizes that people have an individual pattern of reactive emotional reactions while dealing with death, grief, and profound loss or trauma, among other things. People must go through their own specific journeys of coming to grips with death and mourning, etc., according to the model, after which there is a general acceptance of reality, which allows the person to cope. The model is perhaps a way of explaining how and why 'time heals', or how 'life goes on'. And as with any aspect of our own or other people's emotions, when we know more about what is happening, then dealing with it is usually made a little easier.

Biological effects of Grief:

The grief that one suffers from influences the functioning of the body. The disturbed emotions and the level of stress creates a disturbance in the homeostasis of the physical body. The grief has been associated with common diseases such as cold, cough, fever, but the stress from the grieving process has been associated with ulcerative colitis, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, heart disease and cancer. The stress that develops from the grieving process can be related to the three stages of stress given by Hans Selye. Now in case of normal stressor response, hormonal release takes place. The communication through the brain to the body starts with the activation in the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland that is present at the base of the brain releases the hormone named Adrenocorticotropic Hormone. The hormone is also a protective hormone that is released to prepare the body to fight the impact of the stress. With the release of ACTH, the hormones of the Adrenal glands are activated which releases cortisone. Now the role of cortisone is to reduce the level of release of ACTH. What we discussed above is a process that normally takes place in the body during a ‘daily hassle’ stress.

But at times of grief when the stress level is even higher the disturbance in the release of hormones takes place. The cortisone that was produced to reduce the level of ACTH, in such situations, is released twenty times more than the normal level. The high level of production of cortisone influences the functioning of thalamus, the part responsible for producing the white blood cells. The lower production of white blood cells would affect the immune system of the individual. Thus, the more release of cortisone, the more is the impact on the immune system of an individual to the extent of faltering it. Hence, the weakening of the immune system makes the body a prey to illnesses.

In one of the studies that was conducted in 1961 Engel has compared the stereotyped pattern psychological and physiological reactions to disease syndrome. She claimed:” We can identify a consistent etiology, namely, real, threatened, or even fantasies object loss. It fulfills all the criteria of a discrete syndrome, with relatively predictable symptomatology and course.”

With the help of various studies it has been well established that grief can have adverse effects on our body and its functioning. There is marked increase in inflammation of the immune system, marked impact on blood pressure and adverse coronary ailments. Intense level of grief also leads to alteration in the heart muscles which is referred to as “broken heart syndrome”, a form of heart disease with the same symptoms as heart attack.

Both depression and normal grief are not the same as complicated grieving. M. Katherine Shear, MD, director of Columbia University's Centre for Complicated Grief and professor of psychiatry, describes complicated grieving as "a sort of chronic, pervasive grief" that does not improve on its own. "Some of the normal ideas, feelings, or actions that occur during acute sorrow develop a footing and interfere with the capacity to accept the reality of the loss," says the author. Grief disrupts our brain's regular functioning, and our brain is responsible for delivering messages to the rest of our body. Changes in brain neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin can be caused by grief.

Only a few researchers investigate grief biology, and they are generally psychologists with biological interests, which is one reason scientists don't know much about it. One of the rare academics that crosses both domains is Mary-Frances O'Connor, a psychologist who studies grief at the University of Arizona. She examines both the psychology of grieving and its biology alterations in the laboratory. Grief is neither a sickness nor a mental problem, and the major funding body, the National Institutes of Health, does not have a single recognized conduit for supporting it.

Psychological effects:

There is no doubt in the fact that the grieving process has an effect on the psychological functioning of an individual. Grief being an emotion also influences the mental status of the individual. This could also be noticed in the stages of grief. From the person going into a state of denial to expressing anger to bargaining for that last false hope and getting into a phase of sadness and depression and finally accepting the reality to setback to the normal functioning and adapting to the new normal. All the stages involve an impact on the psyche of the individual.

The psychological effect involves both the emotional as well as cognitive functioning of an individual. The continuum of emotions that the individual feels during the grief are of shock, disbelief, pain, intense disbelief, regret, guilt, longingness, resentment, anxiety and worry. At times the intensity of the emotions seems like a burst out whereas sometimes there is this blunt numb emotion. There is a feeling of things getting out of control, a feeling like the plans of life are all disrupted. There is a feeling of emptiness and as if the emptiness that is left would not be refilled. Just imagine losing someone significant to you, the feelings that you imagine with just the thought of it are like a teaser to what in actual one feels.

Thoughts are the memories and information stored in one’s memory. How would your thoughts be affected is one of the most basic questions? The thoughts of the individual are immediately filled with the experiences with the significant loss. The idea of living life without the significant person, pet, object or opportunity makes it difficult for the person to believe in reality. With the loss, a new change is to happen. This change is the one that occupies the major portion of the thought process of an individual. Concentration becomes difficult. For some the world does not make sense, for some their grief could not be understood by others, for some their thoughts are surrounded by the feelings of grief and the thought of isolating oneself from others.

The most commonly experienced sign of grief is profound sadness. Feelings of emptiness, sadness, desire, or intense loneliness are common. You can also find yourself crying a lot or feeling emotionally unstable. Things you said or didn't say or do may cause you regret or guilt. You may also experience remorse about certain emotions (e.g. feeling relieved when the person died after a long, difficult illness). Even if there was nothing more you could have done to avoid the death, you may feel terrible for not doing something to prevent it. You may be furious and resentful, even if the loss was not your fault. You may be upset with yourself, God, the physicians, or even the person who died for leaving you if you lost a loved one. You may feel compelled to hold someone accountable for the injustice that has been done to you. A major loss can cause a slew of anxieties and concerns. You can be worried, powerless, or insecure. You could even get panic attacks. The loss of a loved one might make you fearful of your own mortality, of confronting life without them, or of the obligations you now have on your own.

Significant grief and loss may have an influence on our sense of self-identity, or how we define ourselves. We get the impression that the person we used to be has vanished, and that the person we see in the mirror is a stranger. We may have identified ourselves by our work but lost it (or retired), by our couple hood but lost our spouse, or by our physically but became disabled by Multiple Sclerosis. We must re-examine and redefine who we are, how we perceive ourselves, and how we want others to see us in order to heal. We must remodel our identities and reconcile ourselves to our new selves and lifestyles.

In some cases, grief may even lead to a state of depression. A longitudinal study found that 1 month after people were widowed, 40% of these people meet criteria for a major depression episode, but most researchers argue that this amount of time is not long enough to diagnose depression. Thankfully, this depression caused by grief decreased over time, and after one year, only 15% of this population met the criteria for major depression.

Grief also becomes a triggering or precipitating factor for psychosis and psychotic symptoms in some cases. This could be due to the sudden trigger of shock that can lead to the onset of symptoms but still there is need for more research in the domain.

Grief's mental consequences can have a detrimental impact on a person's actions and behaviors. When people are hurting and don't seek help for their mental health or depression, they may engage in harmful or risky conduct. For others, this may entail self-harm or suicidal behavior or, this may entail resorting to substances such as narcotics or illegal drugs on a regular basis to help them cope with their loss. This behavior can become habitual over time, leading to addiction. In this stage, these individuals should seek therapy at a dual diagnosis treatment clinic, which will handle both issues simultaneously.

Cultural implications:

In our culture, we have a fractured view of grieving. Every civilization has its own set of mores, beliefs, and practices on the right conduct to be shown in the event of an important person's death. If social control is to be avoided, prescribed behavior must be observed, whether earnest or not.

Society not only defines the ritualistic features of grief behavior, but it also helps define the contexts in which it should be displayed. In fact, under the right circumstances, almost any conduct might be taken as a sign of mourning. The following hypothetical situation may be the greatest illustration of this argument. Consider a "happy" marriage in our own society, and assume that both partners were honest and affectionate in their relationship. Almost any conduct displayed by one spouse following the death of the other might be viewed as an indication of sadness under these circumstances. Grief is viewed in our culture as a disease: a terrible, ugly feeling that has to be cleaned up and put behind us as quickly as possible. As a result, we have out-of-date ideas about how long sorrow should linger and how it should seem. Rather of tending to or supporting it, we perceive it as something to overcome or fix. Even our doctors are taught to view grieving as an illness rather than a natural reaction to a significant loss. When experts don't know how to deal with loss, we can't expect the rest of us to do it with ability and grace.

There's a big gap between what we really desire and where we are right now. The skills we have now for dealing with sadness aren't going to be enough to close the gap. Our societal and professional expectations of what sorrow should entail prevent us from caring for ourselves while grieving, as well as from supporting others we love. Worse, those out-of-date beliefs add unneeded agony to natural, everyday discomfort.

What can you do to Alleviate the effects of Grief?

This is the hour of lead

Remembered if outlived

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The letting go.


In actor Morgan Freeman’s current National Geographic Television series “The Story of God” he opened a recent episode saying, “We all go through this, of course. Everybody grieves. But some people have a certainty that helps them cope with grief.” “There’s no right size that fits all. This person is going to recover in this kind of time frame and this person in this kind of time frame”. People who are grieving for a long time should seek the support of a therapist or counselor to assist them go through the process. Intensive therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy and difficult grieving therapy may be performed. It's important to consider techniques to help you overcome or at least manage the stress that comes with loss, whether it's acute grieving or any other very stressful life experience. Counseling is a more solid method of dealing with loss. Individual counseling, support groups, and bereavement groups can all help you move with unresolved sorrow. When you feel that the grief event is interfering with your daily life, this is a helpful therapeutic option. That is, you are having difficulty functioning and require assistance in getting back on track. This does not imply that it will "cure" you of your loss; rather, it will give you coping methods to help you deal with your grieving effectively.

When it comes to easing the emotional and physical effects of sorrow, self-care is crucial, according to Burnette. This might entail contacting sympathetic family members, attending a support group, or seeking treatment. Exercising, getting adequate sleep, and eating a nutritious diet can also assist. It's also critical to give yourself time to recover, practice positive self-talk, and engage in meaningful activities and interests. What kinds of symptoms did you have during grieving, and did you take any self-care measures to help you cope?

Start doing yoga, tai chi, or qigong. According to a study published in the journal Frontiers in Immunology in June 2017, these mind-body exercises can not only help you relax, but they may also reverse the effects of stress and anxiety on a cellular level. Researchers discovered decreased activation of genes that cause inflammation in the body in those who engaged in these behaviors on a daily basis. Many classes are expressly designed to help you relax. These classes may be found online or at local yoga studios and community centres.

Instead, concentrate on maintaining a well-balanced diet. That means plenty of fruits, vegetables, and lean meats, as well as lots of water. Maintain decent sleeping habits. Grief drains one's emotional reserves. People's sleep is typically affected after a loss, with difficulty falling asleep, waking up in the middle of the night, or sleeping too much. "Going to bed at regular hours, following a bedtime routine, and avoiding caffeine and alcohol in the evening helps with more restful sleep," says Dr. Bui.

Get your feet moving. A modest daily stroll can assist with grief-related sadness, restlessness, and sorrow. It might be tough to find the drive to exercise, so seek the help of a workout companion or join an exercise club. Keep a close eye on your health. When you're mourning, it's easy to overlook your overall health. This includes missing doctor's appointments and failing to take your prescriptions as prescribed. "Schedule all exams for the coming year, so you don't miss them, and set timers on your phone or computer to help remind you to take your medications as scheduled, or ask a friend or family member to assist by checking in with you daily," says Dr. Bui.

Taking up more tasks is a good idea. When a spouse or family member passes away, you may be forced to take on additional responsibilities. For example, you may now be in charge of the cooking, general housekeeping, or financial records organization. Despite the fact that these duties might be stressful, Dr. Bui recommends turning them into a good experience. "Taking on a new responsibility can keep your mind focused on a task and distract you from your grief," he says.

Reach out to your social circle: While it can be painful to see people, it is important to maintain connections with others. "This reminds you that you are not alone, and even if you feel isolated, there may be family members, friends, or even neighbors who can give a supportive hand," says Dr. Bui. Set up a weekly lunch or coffee meeting, or invite friends over for a monthly potluck. Alternatively, make an attempt to contact someone every day, whether by phone or email. Don't be scared to ask for what you need and delegate when necessary. Take as much time as you require. Grieve in your own unique style. If taking a sunrise hike up a mountain and strewing rose petals off the edge is your way of honouring your love, then do it. It’s your gesture, no one else’s. Don’t allow others, however well-meaning, to intrude on when you need private time or alone time. It’s okay for you to ask friends and family, “I miss Bob. Tell me something good you remember about Bob; it would help me today.” Know that when people say, “Call me”, they mean it. They want to help. So if you do need something, call if you can. Let people help you as you can; it’s often their way of showing love when they feel tongue-tied or awkward and want to show care but just don’t know the best way.


Grief starts when someone or something we care about is lost to us. We do not grieve for all lost relationships; instead, we grieve only for those that have become important to us over time. These can be relationships with people that we have strong connections to, such as family members, spouses, significant others, and friends; places we feel attached to, such as the house we grew up in or our hometown; or things that are important to us, such as love letters, a watch that a grandparent gave us, etc. We may have loved or hated that person, place, or thing, but we feel grief when they are gone.

Grief "work" is figuring out how to go through the agony, put our loss in context, and reach a point of acceptance that allows us to establish a new normal, although one we wouldn't have chosen. It has taken us on a trip that is different from the one we had planned and imagined, a trip that is entirely unique to us. But a life that has the potential to be good once more.

Everyone walks their own, unique grief journey –– and you will too.


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This article on ' Grief- as a journey to new self ' has been contributed Khushii Raj, who is a second year Applied psychology student at Delhi University and the article is Peer reviewed by Swati Thakur, who is currently pursuing her Masters in Clinical Psychology from Amity University.

Both Khushii and Swati are part of the Global Internship Research Program (GIRP), which is mentored by Anil Thomas. Khushii displays a keen interest in gaining knowledge and implementing the same, aiding to her growth, both personal and professional. Swati's main goal through learning psychology is to spread the importance of psychology in daily applicability.

GIRP is an initiative by (International Journal of Neurolinguistics & Gestalt Psychology) IJNGP and Umang Foundation Trust to encourage young adults across our globe to showcase their research skills in psychology and to present it in creative content expression


Anil is an internationally certified NLP Master Practitioner and Gestalt Therapist. He has conducted NLP Training in Mumbai, and across 6 other countries. The NLP practitioner course is conducted twice every year. To get your NLP certification


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