Grief and Loss


What is Grief?

The experience of one who has lost a loved one.

A natural and unavoidable response to any type of loss.

Unique to each person and each loss.

Affects us physically, socially, spiritually, mentally, and emotionally.

Usually associated with death, however there are a variety of losses that a person may grieve.

What is Bereavement?

“Means to be deprived by death. Someone whose spouse has died, for example, is said to be bereaved.”

The loss to which the person is trying to adapt.

Reference: The Essential Guide to Grief and Grieving, Debra Holland, M.S., Ph.D.


What is Mourning?

“is when you take the grief you have on the inside and express it outside of yourself.”

Process that one goes through in adapting to a loss.

Reference: The Essential Guide to Grief and Grieving, Debra Holland, M.S., Ph.D.


Types of Loss Examples:

End to a relationship

Job loss

Death of a loved one

Death of a pet

Change in physical or mental health

Loss of financial stability

Miscarriage (all involved- parents, family, etc)

Change in future hopes and dreams

Loss of feeing of safety after trauma

Loss of identity or sense of belonging


New job

Moving to a new house, town, province or country

Changes in life after birth of a child

Child graduating elementary, highschool, etc.


Myths about grief and loss

Something you “get over.”

There is a right and a wrong way to grieve

Grief can be avoided

It’s linear with a beginning and an end.

it’s time limited

I must be strong

Don’t feel sad

Replace the loss

Keep busy (short term relief doesn’t work)


Types of Grief

Anticipatory Grief

Disenfranchised Grief

Uncomplicated Grief

Complicated Grief


Anticipatory Grief

Mourning that occurs before an impending loss

Much more common with the advances of healthcare and medicine

May change the dynamic of grief after the person has died

Examples: Family Member diagnosed with terminal cancer, dementia/Alzheimer’s or any other terminal or degenerative condition, process of going through a separation or divorce.



Grief that is not generally acknowledged or that is minimized by society.

Makes it difficult for the bereaved to mourn publicly, receive social support or to have loss acknowledged

Examples: Miscarriage, death of an ex-partner, death of a pet, end of an unhealthy relationship.


Uncomplicated Grief

“For most people, grief never completely goes away but recedes into the background. Over time, healing diminishes the pain of a loss. Thoughts and memories of loved ones are deeply interwoven in a person’s mind, defining their history and coloring their view of the world. Missing deceased loved ones may be an ongoing part of the lives of bereaved people, but it does not continuously interrupt life.” (The centre for Complicated Grief Columbia University School of Social Work)


Complicated Grief

Refers to factors that interfere with the natural healing process such as characteristics of the bereaved person, to the nature of the relationship with the deceased/lost person, the circumstances of the loss, or to things that occured after the loss.

“Knowledge that the person is gone however, still can’t believe it. They say that time is moving on but they are not. They often have strong feelings or yearning or longing for the person who died that don’t seem to lessen as time goes on. Thoughts, memories, or images of the deceased person frequently fill their mind, capturing their attention. They might have strong feelings of bitterness or anger related to the death. They find it hard to imagine that life without the deceased person has purpose or meaning. It can seem like joy and satisfaction are gone forever.” (Handbook of Bereavement; theory, research and intervention. Margaret Stroebe, Wolfgang Stroebe, Robert Hansson.)







Chronic Grief

Prolonged, unending and unchanging

Associated with depression, guilt, withdrawal and preoccupation with the lost

Not the same thing as Anniversary reactions which can happen even a decade after a loss


Delayed Grief

Inhibited, suppressed, post-phoned

Can be delayed for weeks or even years

Upon experiencing a future loss grief reaction may be exaggerated

May be stimulated by future losses ie: Triggered by divorce


Masked Grief

Quote from a Comicstrip:

“Sure there’s traditional therapy, Mr.Wayne, but how about this? You get a costume, some gadgets, maybe a sidekick, and you fight crime. See how that works.” (Mark Anderson)


Masked Grief

Symptoms are not recognized as related to the loss

Generally turns up in one or two ways; a physical symptom or a maladaptive behaviour


Exaggerated Grief

Intensification of a typical grief response

Person is aware that it is linked to the loss

Includes major psychiatric disorders that develop following a loss

Clinical Depression, Anxiety Disorder, Phobias, Substance abuse issue, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder


“5 Stages” of Grief

Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance

Proposed by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

More of a guideline to normalize what you might be feeling vs. concrete stages with beginning and an end that everyone will experience

Keep in mind- all people grieve differently



Our brains attempt to protect us against overwhelming information and pain until we are ready to process it.

Feelings include shock, disbelief, numbness, feeling surreal, confusion




Numbness wears off and pain resurfaces and the pain is deflected and redirected

Often involves looking for someone/something to blame for our pain

Anger at a person for leaving us, the doctor who couldn’t create a cure, the counselor that didn’t save the marriage, God, other family members, inanimate objects and at times ourselves.



Reaction to feelings of helplessness and vulnerability, trying to regain a feeling of control

Often accompanied by feelings of guilt

Lost in a maze of “If only…” or “What if…”

“If we had only sought couples counselling sooner.”

“What if they had gone to the doctors the day before.”

“Maybe if I had called them that night to talk they would have avoided that accident.”

“If I had only played with my pet more often.”

“What If I promise to never get angry at my child again?”



Sadness and regret predominate

Reflection on what the loss might mean and its practical implications

Starting on the path towards letting go

Feels as if it will last forever

Withdrawal from life, have difficulty socializing and engaging in self-care

Normal and not something to be “fixed” or something to “snap out of”



Accepting the reality that things will not be the same and that this new reality is permanent

Not the same as feeling “All right” or “okay” with the loss

May feel as if we are betraying the one we lost at times

We learn to “live with” the loss, having more “good days” then bad


Resolving Grief/Grief “Work”

“Most, if not all, bereaved individuals never totally resolve their grief, and significant aspects of the bereavement process may go on for years after the loss.” (Handbook of Bereavement. Maragret Stroebe, Wolfgang Stroebe, Robert Hansson)


Ways to Engage your Grief

Talk about the person who was lost

Acknowledge and work through the feelings (experience and work through the pain)

Talk to the person who was lost, either by speaking to them aloud when at home, when visiting their grave, by writing them letters, etc.

Create meaning: Create a memory book, go through old photos, create anniversary or commemorative rituals

Do not avoid reminders, engage in them

Engage with and build on your support system; Join a grief support group; Get Counselling

Engage in self-care



Centre for grief and healing

Bereaved families in Ontario- halton/peel

Supports groups for: children, youth, young adults, and adults

Specific groups for : General grief, child loss, spousal loss, infant loss

Other services: Grief workshop for teens , Art therapy, corporate education, commemorative events, grief library

Contact information:



Phone Local: 905-848-4337 or Toll Free 1-877-826-3566

Main Office location: Bereaved Families of Ontario H/P. 33 City Centre Drive, Suite 610, L5B 2N5 Mississauga, ON Canada

The Lighthouse

The Lighthouse Programs for Grieving Children provides support groups for children, youth, and their families following a death in the immediate family

Location and contact:

82 Wilson St, Oakville, ON




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