Grief is a natural response to loss. It is the emotional suffering one feels when something or someone the individual loves is taken away.[1] Grief is also a reaction to any loss. The grief associated with death is familiar to most people, but individuals grieve in connection with a variety of losses throughout their lives, such as unemployment, ill health or the end of a relationship.[2] Loss can be categorised as either physical or abstract,[3] the physical loss being related to something that the individual can touch or measure, such as losing a spouse through death, while other types of loss are abstract, and relate to aspects of a person’s social interactions.[4]

Every step of the process is natural and healthy, it is only when a person gets stuck in one step for a long period of time then the grieving can become unhealthy, destructive and even dangerous. When going through the grieving process it is not the same for everyone, but everyone does have a common goal, acceptance of the loss and to always keep moving forward.[5] This process is different for every person but can be understood in four different steps.

Shock and Denial

Shock is the initial reaction to loss. Shock is the person’s emotional protection from being too suddenly overwhelmed by the loss. The person may not yet be willing or able to believe what their mind knows to be true. This stage normally lasts two or three months.

Intense Concern

Intense concern is often shown by not being able to think of anything else. Even during daily tasks, thoughts of the loss keep coming to mind. Conversations with one at this stage always turn to the loss as well. This period may last from six months to a year.

Despair and Depression

Despair and depression is a long period of grief, the most painful and protracted stage for the griever (during which the person gradually comes to terms with the reality of the loss). The process typically involves a wide range of feelings, thoughts, and behaviours Many behaviours may be irrational. Depression can include feelings of anger, guilt, sadness and anxiety.


The goal of grieving is not the elimination of all the pain or the memories of the loss. In this stage, one shows a new interest in daily activities and begins to function normally day to day. The goal is to reorganize one’s life, so the loss is an important part of life rather than its centre.[6][7]

  1. Melinda Smith, J. S. (2012, January). Coping with Grief and Loss. Retrieved March 15, 2012, from
  2. ^America, H. F. (2012). Grief. Retrieved March 15, 2012, from Hospice Foundation of America:
  3. ^Rando, Therese A. (1991). How to go on living when someone you love dies. ISBN 978-0-553-35269-6. [page needed]
  4. ^Therese A. Rando, P. (1991). How To Go On Living When Someone You Love Dies. Lexington Books.[page needed]
  5. ^Mcdonald, P. C. (1985). Grieving: A Healing Process. Center city, MN: Hazelden Foundation.[page needed]
  6. ^Center, C. (2007). Grief and Loss. Retrieved March 15, 2012, from Counseling Center:
  7. ^Smith, C. (2012). Unit 1 Live Session [PowerPoint slides]. Retrieved from: