The way we react to loss is called grief. Grief can affect our emotions, thoughts, behaviour, and even how we feel physically. The way one person experiences grief might be very different from how someone else does. For example, grief reactions can include:
- shock, disbelief and confusion
- trouble concentrating and focusing on tasks
- altered patterns of eating and sleeping
- physical changes such as dizziness, headaches or upset stomach
- sadness and yearning
- memories and thoughts about who or what has been lost
- withdrawing from usual activities.
Grief is a normal and natural process after a loss, but can be very painful to work through.
The way we express grief outwardly is called mourning. Mourning can take many forms, depending on the person and even varying among different cultures. Common forms of mourning include crying, and expressing grief through art or writing, or through rituals and religious practices such as prayer.
Grief and mourning can be expressed individually, as a family, and even as a community. How long someone grieves may vary depending on the person’s relationship to their loss.
Grief can be emotionally overwhelming, which may lead us to try to avoid our strong feelings. However, mourning is an important part of processing a loss. When we mourn in a healthy way, we may gradually come to a deeper understanding of what the person or thing we lost meant to us, which helps to eventually restore hope and motivation. In this way we can slowly re-engage in our daily lives – even if it is in a different way than before.
Although grief and mourning are normal responses to loss, for some people they can persist, and may overlap with traumatic experiences and reactions. This can lead to significant and lasting mental health or substance use challenges. If you find that feelings of grief are overwhelming and seem “stuck,” seek professional mental health support (for example, you can ask your doctor for a referral).
Types of loss
You may be experiencing one or more kinds of loss related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are some of the things that people are grieving at this time. In many of these situations, uncertainty about how and when the situation will be resolved may complicate the grieving process and make the loss harder to work through than it otherwise would be.