Grief and its effects

For most of us bereavement will be the most distressing experience we will ever face. The grief we feel when someone close to us dies can be overwhelming. It is important to remember that everyone experiences grief differently and that there is no right or wrong way to grieve. Neither are there time constraints to get over it.  Indeed, I believe that telling a grieving person to “Get over it” is one of the cruelest things you can be told.


The feelings you experience and what happens when you are grieving can feel very unnatural and strange – even scary. Clients often say, “I feel I’m going mad” or “I’m not an angry person, but I can’t control my anger”. Others who describe themselves as “being strong” report uncontrollable weeping. You may be having similar or different experiences.


The good news is, you are not going mad, nor are you loosing it – you are going through the grieving process and that’s a journey into the unknown. Even though you may have experienced the death of a loved one in the past, the loss you are now experiencing will be different because the relationship you had with those deceased people will have been different. It is also important to understand that siblings will grieve the loss of a parent in different ways because each sibling has a uniquely different personality and their relationship with the deceased parent will almost certainly have been different to the relationship other siblings had with that parent.   

Feelings and emotions are unpredictable in grief; here are some of the common ones:

Numbness: Some who are bereft of a loved one report an initial period of shock, numbness and disbelief – even when the death was expected. 

Sadness and yearning: The overwhelming sense of loss and the yearning to see, hold, touch and talk to the deceased can evoke unimaginable pain together with an intense sense of loss, insecurity, loneliness and vulnerability.

Anger, fear, blame, guilt, relief, sorrow, regret, ‘unfinished business’ …. any or all of these could flood the mind, consume and completely overwhelm you.

Perhaps you are experiencing sleep deprivation – or sleeping more than usual. Maybe you are suffering appetite loss – or comfort eating. Some grieving people feel a need to return to work in order to maintain normality while others are totally incapable of even considering that as a plausible option. As stated above, there is no right, wrong, must or must not in the grieving process.


The grieving process is a journey which is different in one way or another for each and every one of us. To grieve effectively we must be given the opportunity to choose the direction and speed of travel – that is to talk about the things we want to share – and in our own time.


Grief has no friends and is a cruel adversary so it is important to engage with a travelling companion – who could be a family member, friend, neighbour, colleague or trained counsellor. Generally speaking the grief journey is not one that should be taken alone.