- By Doctor Harmony, Psychiatrist
A grief reaction can occur in any life situation when there is loss, such as loss of independence, physical and
mental health, lifestyle, employment, relationships and loss of ability to achieve life aspirations and hopes,
death of loved ones or stillbirths/miscarriages.
Many find it a lonely journey as they still may be grieving when their supports around them appear to have
“gotten on with life.” Many may feel that they do not want to burden others with their grief. This makes it
difficult to reach out to others in their grief.
What is considered “normal” grief?
Swiss psychiatrist, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross famously identified five stages to grief, which can occur in any
order. All of the stages need not occur in the grief reaction of one particular person:
1. DENIAL- of the reality of the situation.
2. ANGER- with the situation or others. People may blame or feel they are victims.
3. BARGAINING- negotiating to try to reduce the pain of the loss.
4. DEPRESSION- which can include hopelessness, guilt, reduced sleep and appetite.
5. ACCEPTANCE- when the loss is incorporated into daily life and is accepted.
It is common that the grief fluctuates in intensity and is relived with reminders or anniversaries.
Death is a taboo in many cultures. In some cultures, it is not respectful to mention names of deceased
people. Religion and personal beliefs also influence perception and expression about death and grief.
How can I overcome grief after a death?
1) Celebrate the time you had with your loved one rather than the time lost.
2) Celebrate their life on anniversaries, birthdays and special occasions. This may mean, starting a new
tradition, doing something your loved one enjoyed, exchanging stories of fun times you had with the
loved one. Some people find it helpful collating a scrapbook of their loved one’s life or planting a
3) Ask yourself, “How would they want me to be now that they have gone? How would they feel seeing
me so upset?”
4) Use the grief positively to help others, such as volunteer work, donating to charity or even becoming
an organ donor.
5) If you have unresolved issues with your loved one, try resolving it creatively, such as writing a letter,
talking to their photo or seeking professional help.
6) Avoid using alcohol and drugs as a crutch. This worsens problems longer-term.
7) Seek professional counselling if you are struggling.
For more information on dealing with feelings, check out series one of my Building Resilience books series. Although it is marketed as children’s picture books, it has great tips for children
and adults alike.
This column is intended to be general advice only. It is
recommended that medical advice for individual circumstances
is sought through your local health practitioner.
This column is intended to be general advice only. It
is recommended that medical advice for individual
circumstances is sought through your local health