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The Truth About Grief

Grieving is a natural process that everyone experiences at some point, and there is no right or wrong way to grieve. But understanding grief can help you (and your loved ones) find healing sooner.
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What is Grief?
Grief is a natural, intensely felt reaction to loss. People commonly associate grief with the death of a loved one, but grief can be experienced with any change involving a perceived loss, including: death, divorce, separation, the end of a relationship, injury or illness.

The more significant the loss, the more intense the grief is likely to be. Grief can even manifest itself in association with happy events, such as getting married or graduating, as there can be losses associated with those changes.


Your grief is as unique as you are, and your reaction of grief is normal. Don’t worry about where you’re “supposed to be” in the healing process. However, understanding common reactions can help you know where you are, and how to navigate the emotions associated with grief.

One of the most common models of grief is “The Five Stages of Grief.” These stages aren’t designed to help you tuck emotions into neat little packages or pressure you to more quickly move through grieving. They are simply tools to help you identify and frame what you’re feeling. Remember that these stages aren’t linear, and not everybody goes through each of them, or in a certain order.


Denial helps sufferers survive the loss. In it, you may experience shock, numbness, or question the reality of the loss. It is the mind’s way of letting in only as much as you can handle. As the reality of the situation sets in, denial begins to fade.


In anger, you may cast blame or find yourself furious at the situation or people involved, yourself, or even God or your higher power. You may feel the need to blame someone for the injustice that happened.


Bargaining is what happens when you try to make deals with God or a higher power to try to gain a different outcome for the loss you are experiencing. Guilt or fear may also come into play in this stage. You want life to return to the way it was, and try to negotiate your way out of the hurt.


In depression, you may feel empty and grief may feel deeper and more profound. You may withdraw from life and wonder what the point of continuing on is. This depression often feels like it’ll last forever, but know that it won’t.


People often think that the acceptance stage means that you’re alright or okay with what happened, but that isn’t the case. Instead of, “It’s okay that this thing happened,” it’s “This thing happened and I’m going to be okay.”

This phase helps you to recognize the new reality is permanent. The pain may continue to be present, but it isn’t all-consuming, and the good days tend to outnumber the bad days. You may not like it, but you will have learned to accept and live with it, so you can continue growing and evolving.

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Factors That Get in the Way of the Grieving Process
It's important to allow yourself the time and space to experience grief in your own way. Hiding your feelings or expecting your grief to follow a proscribed timeline can have long-reaching impacts on your well-being. Here are some unhealthy patterns to avoid:

  • Avoiding or minimizing emotions
  • Using alcohol, drugs, or other substances to self-medicate
  • Engaging in risky behavior
  • Using work, schoolwork, and/or constant socializing to distract and avoid your feelings
  • Taking care of everyone else and not taking care of yourself
  • Staying away from friends, family, and other support systems
  • Avoiding pleasurable activities
  • Contemplating or engaging in self-harm
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Coping and Supporting Yourself
It's important to continue caring for yourself as you process your grief. Loss can cause you to feel isolated, but you are not alone! The process can be easier to cope with when you:

  • Express your feelings through talking or in a tangible/creative way
  • Seek and accept help from support systems
  • Take care of yourself physically (sleep, exercise, nutrition)
  • Join a support group
  • Follow your routines as much as possible
  • Journal about thoughts, feelings, and memories
  • Utilize religious/spiritual connections
  • Participate in a grieving ritual
  • Maintain hobbies and interests
  • Be patient with yourself
And remember ... there isn’t necessarily an end to grief. These intense emotions can come in waves, so be patient with yourself as you navigate the ups and downs.


In addition to the above-mentioned ways to support yourself, you may want to see a counselor. Talking with a professional is especially important if your thoughts and behaviors are interfering with your ability to function in everyday life. A trained psychologist can help you work through the places you may feel stuck in your grief, and provide a safe space to sort through your feelings.


Kübler-Ross, E. and Kessler, D. (2005). On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief Through the Five Stages of Loss. New York: Scribner.

Get Help ASAP

If it feels like there's no other option--please know that there is! Don't wait, there are people who can help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7 at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). They also offer a chat option through their website,

*Please note that selecting any of these links will redirect you away from Ensign College's website. Because websites are constantly changing, Ensign College does not endorse or guarantee the accuracy of this information.


The Student Success Center is here to help! Please contact us with any further questions at 801-524-8151.

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