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Grief and Loss

What is grief and loss?


Grief is a natural response to losing someone or something that’s important to you. You may feel a variety of emotions, like sadness or loneliness. And you might experience it for a number of different reasons. Maybe a loved one died, a relationship ended, or you lost your job. Other life changes, like chronic illness or a move to a new home, can also lead to grief.

Everyone grieves differently. But if you understand your emotions, take care of yourself, and seek support, you can heal.


What Are the Stages of Grief?

Your feelings may happen in phases as you come to terms with your loss. You can’t control the process, but it’s helpful to know the reasons behind your feelings. Doctors have identified five common stages of grief:



Every person goes through these phases in his or her own way. You may go back and forth between them, or skip one or more stages altogether. Reminders of your loss, like the anniversary of a death or a familiar song, can trigger the return of grief.


How Long Is Too Long to Mourn?

There’s no “normal” amount of time to grieve. Your grieving process depends on a number of things, like your personality, age, beliefs, and support network. The type of loss is also a factor. For example, chances are you’ll grieve longer and harder over the sudden death of a loved one than, say, the end of a romantic relationship.

With time, the sadness eases. You’ll be able to feel happiness and joy along with grief. You’ll be able to return to your daily life.


Do I Need Professional Help?

In some cases, grief doesn’t get better. You may not be able to accept the loss. Doctors call this “complicated grief.” Talk to your doctor if you have any of the following:



A therapist can help you explore your emotions. They can also teach you coping skills and help you manage your grief. If you’re depressed, a doctor may be able to prescribe medicines to help you feel better.

When you’re in deep, emotional pain, it can be tempting to try to numb your feelings with drugs, alcohol, food, or even work. But be careful. These are temporary escapes that won’t make you heal faster or feel better in the long run. In fact, they can lead to addiction, depression, anxiety, or even an emotional breakdown.

Instead, try these things to help you come to terms with your loss and begin to heal:



WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Carol DerSarkissian on November 6, 2016