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Grief & Loss


What is grief?

Grief is a natural response to loss.  It can be felt and expressed

with strong emotions such as:

  • Shock/numbness

  • Fear

  • Anger

  • Guilt

  • Profound sadness

Stages of Grief

Grief also impacts our physical health and can include the

following physical symptoms:

  • Sleep disruption

  • Loss / increased appetite

  • Fatigue

  • Nausea

  • Aches and pains

  • Lowered immunity


Different forms of loss 

Throughout our lives, we can experience loss in many forms. Whether it is the loss of a loved one, job or a sudden or unexpected event that shakes us to our core; the pain felt is sharp, deep and very real.   Losses that can cause grief include:

  • Death of a loved one

  • Death of a pet

  • Divorce or relationship ending

  • Loss of a job

  • Loss of financial stability

  • Loss of health

  • Miscarriage / infertility

  • Retirement

  • Loss of a friendship

  • Loss of hopes or dreams

  • Loss of sense of safety following trauma

  • Loss of trust


Coping with grief and loss

There will be days that you feel as though the weight of your grief is finally lifting and you are able to function normally again.  Not feeling completely consumed by grief may then evoke feelings of guilt and shame.  On other days, you may feel totally crushed by the loss and unable to cope.  This is the rollercoaster of emotions consistent with grief.  While these emotions can be all consuming, it is essential for your health and wellbeing to be able to have meaningful life experiences, whilst still honouring your grieving process.

Grief counselling will help you with:

  • Working through painful memories and emotions

  • Making your grief manageable

  • Learning to enjoy life again, without experiencing guilt

  • Acceptance


Danni Murfett at Sexual Trauma Counselling Perth utilises a combination of evidence-based grief and loss counselling strategies targeted to help you move through your grief in a safe, supported way. Techniques include emotion-processing and stress-reduction tools designed to resolve feelings of grief and loss. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) can also help to break patterns of intrusive, unwanted negative thoughts that are common following a loss.


How long does grieving take?


While people have similar reactions to grief, grieving is a unique and deeply personal experience for the individual.  The significance of the loss, your culture, personality, age, gender and other factors will influence your experience of grief and as such, there is no right or wrong way to grieve or prescribed timeline.  The length of time required to adjust to a loss is different for each person and circumstance.  A significant loss, such as the death of a loved one can take considerable time in terms of adjusting to life without the person and re-experiencing feelings of grief on the anniversary of your loved one’s death or other special days throughout the year.  It is helpful to exercise additional self-care and self-compassion during these times.  You might find comfort in the knowledge that grief tends to come in waves and as time passes, the distress reduces both in intensity and frequency. 


When grief doesn’t go away


As time passes following a significant loss, it is usual for the feelings of numbness, anger and sadness to ease.  Generally, people start to be able to accept their loss and move forward with their lives.  If over time, your grief is either worsening or not improving, it might be an indication that your grief has developed into a more serious issue such as complicated grief or major depression. 


Complicated Grief


While the sadness following a loss might never completely go away, intense and prolonged emotions might

be a sign that you are suffering from complicated grief.  Complicated grief is like being in a permanent and intense state of mourning.  You might have difficulty accepting the loss long after it occurred, and it may be impacting on your ability to function in your daily life and relationships. 

Symptoms of complicated grief include:


  • Prolonged and intense longing and yearning for what was lost

  • Intrusive thoughts or images of your loved one or thing

  • Denial of the loss or sense of disbelief

  • Imagining that a deceased loved one is alive

  • Searching for your lost loved one in familiar places

  • Avoiding things that remind you of what was lost

  • Social isolation and withdrawal

  • Feeling that life is empty or meaningless

  • Sleep disturbances

  • Physical or psychosomatic symptoms

  • Significant weight loss or gain

  • Panic attacks, phobias or irrational fears

  • Extreme anger or bitterness over your loss or strong emotions such as fear, guilt, shock/numbness or profound sadness

  • Difference between grief and clinical depression


Grief and clinical depression share many symptoms, and as such it can be difficult to distinguish between the two.  Whilst it is usual to experience a roller coaster of difficult emotions during the grieving process, it is possible to have moments of pleasure or happiness.  With clinical depression, on the other hand, the feelings of emptiness and despair are constant.


Additional symptoms of clinical depression may include:

  • Intense, pervasive sense of guilt

  • Thoughts of suicide or a preoccupation with dying

  • Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness

  • Slow speech and body movements

  • Inability to function at home, work, and/or school

  • Seeing or hearing things that aren't there


When to seek professional help?


Grief is a normal and important part of the healing process.  If you can connect to the feelings that you experience it is possible to move beyond the pain.  If you find yourself sinking too low, not able to eat, sleep or connect with friends, then reach out for support through the grieving process.   If you recognise any of the of the symptoms of complicated grief or clinical depression mentioned above, or have any suicidal thoughts, it is important to talk to your GP or mental health professional immediately to obtain the appropriate support and treatment.

Symptoms of Grief


-Karen Salansohn -

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