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Grief - Causes, Symptoms, Effects, Stages, Risk Factors

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Grief - Causes, Symptoms, Effects, Stages, Risk Factors

4 min read


Grief is the natural response to losing something, or someone who has formed feelings in you may make you sad and lonely. Let us see about grief in detail.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Krishan Kumar Sharma

Published At April 18, 2019
Reviewed AtMarch 28, 2024

What Is Grief?

Grief is the natural response to losing something or someone who you formed feelings for. One may feel sad and lonely, which can be due to the death of a loved one, loss of a job, after a breakup, or any other event that alters their life drastically. Grief can also be caused by a chronic illness or moving to a new place or staying alone. Everyone grieves differently, one may cry, get angry, feel withdrawn, or feel empty, but with the right support and by getting help at the right time, one can heal.

What Are the Causes of Grief?

The following losses can result in grief:

  1. Death of a loved one.

  2. Divorce.

  3. Relationship breakup.

  4. Losing a job.

  5. Any illness.

  6. Miscarriage.

  7. Loss of friendship.

  8. Loss of a dream.

  9. Retirement.

  10. Death of a pet.

  11. Changing jobs.

  12. Moving to a new place.

What Are the Emotional Symptoms of Grief?

Some of the emotional symptoms associated with grief are:

  • Irritability.

  • Numbness.

  • Bitterness.

  • Detachment.

  • Inability to show joy.

  • Problems in accepting reality.

  • Losing the sense of purpose.

  • Lack of trust.

What Are the Physical Symptoms and Effects on the Body?

Grief is not entirely an emotional response, it can have physical symptoms like:

If left untreated, grief can lead to mental and physical health problems. If one notices that their symptoms are getting worse, and if their loss is affecting their health, consult the doctor immediately.

What Are the Stages of Grief?

As everyone grieves differently, the phase in which you are depends on how you come to terms with the loss. There are five stages of grief, which are:

  • Denial - People often respond to intense and sudden feelings of loss by pretending that it never happened. It is a common defense mechanism, which makes people temporary numb to the severity of the situation. It also gives people more time to absorb and process the news. But once the person is out of the denial phase, all the hidden emotions come out, which can be hard to deal with.

  • Anger - Some people might not know how to express their emotions and pain, and end up getting angry at the person who died, the old boss, or the ex. You may realize that the person you are angry at is not to blame, but the feeling of loss is too great to be dealt with. Once the anger subsides, people start thinking clearly and feel the emotions that they have been pushing aside all this time.

  • Bargaining - In this stage of grieving, people look for a way to regain control or to change the outcome of the events that lead to grief. They keep thinking about the things they could have done or think about ways that the unfortunate incident could have been avoided. Most individuals make deals or promises with God in exchange for relief from their feelings.

  • Depression - This is a quiet stage of grief. Here, people try to isolate themselves to cope with the loss, which can be difficult and overwhelming. You may feel confused and foggy. Depression is inevitable after any loss, but you should come out of it eventually. If you feel stuck and start having suicidal thoughts, consult a mental health professional immediately.

  • Acceptance - Acceptance does not really mean that the person is happy or has moved past the grief or loss, but it means that the individual has accepted the loss to be a part of his or her life now.

What Are Different Forms of Grief?

Various forms of grief exist, highlighting the diverse and intricate nature of the grieving process.

  • Anticipatory Grief: Anticipatory grief occurs before the actual loss, such as grieving when informed of a terminal illness in oneself or a loved one. This early grieving can help prepare for the eventual loss, but it is essential to balance it with cherishing present moments.

  • Abbreviated Grief: Occasionally, individuals navigate the grieving journey swiftly, known as abbreviated grief. This can occur after anticipatory grief, where prior emotional preparation expedites the grieving process. A brief grieving period does not diminish the significance of the loss; it reflects diverse timelines in our grief experiences.

  • Delayed Grief: Rather than experiencing grief-related emotions immediately after a loss, these feelings may arise days, weeks, or even months later. Sometimes, the shock of the loss delays emotional processing, while in other cases, practical tasks such as funeral arrangements may occupy the attention until they address their emotions.

  • Inhibited Grief: Inhibited grief occurs when emotions are suppressed, often due to a lack of understanding or recognition of the complex feelings associated with grief. Many individuals repress their emotions without realizing it, as they may not have learned how to navigate or identify these emotions during the grieving process. Consequently, unexpressed grief can manifest as physical symptoms such as digestive issues, sleep disturbances, anxiety, or even panic attacks.

  • Cumulative Grief: Cumulative grief involves simultaneously processing multiple losses. For instance, grieving the loss of a child alongside the end of a subsequent marriage adds complexity to the grieving process, presenting unexpected challenges.

  • Collective Grief: While grief is often viewed as an individual experience, collectives also undergo grieving processes. Significant events such as wars, natural disasters, school shootings, and pandemics bring widespread losses that redefine societal norms. As a collective, we mourn shared experiences lost, grappling with envisioning a transformed future..

What Are the Complications of Grief?

Complicated grief can cause mental, physical, and emotional complications like:

What Is the Duration of Grief?

The American Psychological Association (APA) outlines grief as typically lasting from six months to two years, with symptoms gradually improving over time. However, it is crucial to understand that grief does not adhere to strict timelines; each person's grieving process is unique and ongoing. Seeking support from a grief counselor or therapist can be beneficial if coping with loss becomes challenging and affects daily life.

How to Cope with Grief?

The following tips may help one cope:

  • Learn to manage stress.

  • Get enough rest, eat healthily, and exercise.

  • Physical activity will help relieve stress, depression, and anxiety.

  • Do not isolate. Stay connected with family and friends.

  • Join a support group.

It is important to acknowledge and accept the loss, as rejecting and trying to keep your emotions bottled up might be unhealthy. And if you feel you or a friend is not able to come to terms with the loss of a loved one, and if it is affecting the daily activities, get help from psychiatrists online.


Grief is a universal human experience stemming from loss, encompassing various emotions such as sadness, anger, and emptiness. While each person's journey through grief is unique, seeking support and understanding can facilitate healing and adaptation to life's changes

Frequently Asked Questions


What Are the 7 Stages of Grief?

The seven stages of grief include denial, shock, anger, bargaining, testing, depression, and acceptance. Each stage has its own psychological influence and importance.


How Long Does Grief Last?

There is no designated time duration for how long grief lasts, or how should a person feel after a particular time. The depth and duration of grief are different in different people based on their nature and the cause of grief. For some people, even after twelve months, it may still feel as if everything happened yesterday, or it might feel that it all happened a lifetime ago. These are some of the feelings a person might experience when he or she is coping with grief for a longer-term.


How to Cope With Grief?

In life, one of the most difficult experiences in any human being would be losing a loved one. Different people cope with grief differently. Some people recover on their own. Some people seek help from family and friends, and even some would need a psychologist to cope up with grief.


What Is Complicated Grief?

Complicated grief is defined as a type of grief that is complicated by adjustment disorders that present with depression and anxious mood swings or disturbing emotional cycle and behavior. The causes of complicated grief might be a major depression, substance abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder, etc. Complicated grief is identified in individuals by the extended length of time of the symptoms of grief.


How to Help Someone With Grief?

When your loved one, a family member, or a friend is grieving through a loss, you can help them out by being a good listener. It also involves respecting the person's way of grieving, accepting their mood swings, avoiding giving advice and opinions, refraining from trying to explain the loss again to them, and helping out with giving them practical tasks. Above all, it is essential to stay connected and available when they mentally need you and offer kind and warm words that touch the heart.


What Is Grief in Psychology?

According to Psychology, grief is a psychological-emotional experience that is followed by a loss. It might be of any kind, such as a relationship, status, job, house, game, income, etc., But in case of bereavement, it is a specific type of grief related to the death of a loved one a friend.


What Is Abnormal Grief?

According to medical dictionaries, abnormal grief is defined as a prolonged, difficult, complicated behavioral and emotional response to a severe and traumatic loss of a close friend or family member.


How Does Grief Affect the Brain?

There were scientific brain scans of people experiencing grief done for research purposes. Those scans explained that loss, grief, and traumas could impact a person's emotional and physical processes. During grief, it is found to create a response from the brain that is sensory oriented, and protective to the loss. The brain perceives loss and grief as a threat and the amygdala portions of this system instruct the body to resist grief.


Is Tiredness a Symptom of Grief?

Mental exhaustion of grief that leads to physical tiredness is one of the most common early signs of grief. The person explains the tiredness felt as a feeling of being extremely tired all the time that results in a messy daily routine.


Can You Die From Grief?

Yes, studies have proved that people can really die from grief. Especially when grief is brought on by losing a spouse or any important person related to the person, grief can cause severe progressive inflammation that can lead to major depression, a heart attack, or even premature death.


Is Grief a Form of Stress?

Since every loss, no matter how expected, especially when it comes to losing loved ones, it will be accompanied by stress and disorientation. Grief is not an exception to stress; thus, grief can cause stress.


How Does Grief Affect the Immune System?

The immune system of our body is responsible for fighting infections. It mediates through inflammation as a fight response. Grief has been proved to affect the inflammatory process by increasing it progressively significantly. This can be life-threatening if untreated over a long period of time.


What Does Grief Look Like?

Grief can be identified through a combination of emotional symptoms. That might include increased irritability, numbness, detachment from the people, and surrounding’s inability to show and experience joy. This could be personally overwhelming the person. It is essential for these people to either seek help from family, friends, or psychologists by themselves or as being friends or family members to these people we ought to help them.


Can Grief Affect Your Heart?

The multiple emotions in grief could increase blood pressure and the risk of thrombosis. When a person is going through intense grief, it can alter the heart muscle's normal anatomy that causes "broken heart syndrome," a form of heart disease with the same symptoms as a heart attack.


What Is Ambiguous Grief?

Ambiguous grief is defined as a loss that occurs without closure or a clear understanding of the person's conscience. This kind of grief will leave the person searching for answers, and thus he or she complicates and delays the process of grieving at the moment of loss, which often results in unresolved grief.


What Is the Testing Stage of Grief?

The testing stage of grief is an overlooked stage of grief. When a person experiences through the different stages of grief one by one, they may arrive at a period of testing at any instance. This stage of grief is similar to the bargaining stage, but it typically occurs later. During the testing stage, the person will experiment with different ways to manage their grief constantly.


What Is the Hardest Stage of Grief?

The fifth stage of grief is called the acceptance stage. It is noted to be the most difficult one among all the stages. The process of grieving is described as having cycles or stages.


Is Bereavement the Same as Grief?

Grief is defined as a combination of mental, physical, social, or emotional reactions. Mental reactions usually include anger, guilt, anxiety, etc. Bereavement is known as the period after a loss in which grief is experienced, and mourning occurs as a symptom.


What Is the Bargaining Stage of Grief?

In the Kubler-Ross Grief Cycle, the fourth stage is the one that includes desperate bargaining. Once the anger has been blown out, the next stage presents with desperate negotiation, where the affected person seeks ways to avoid that the bad thing has happened. Bargaining is a vain expression of hope that the affected people think the bad news is reversible.


How Do You Help People Who Are Grieving?

The different ways you can help someone grieving are by offering hope through your words and actions, reaching out to know if they need your help,
helping them assist with meals, and listening to them well instead of advising. It is essential to note to avoid judgments and opinions on these people, which might further hurt them.


How Do You Talk to Someone Who Is Grieving?

Talking to a grieving person should be done in a careful manner. Because anything we might tell them can make them hurt and vulnerable. So it is important not to tell a grieving person how to feel. It is better to listen and add words to what they speak, which might comfort them more than opinions and judgments.
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Dr. Krishan Kumar Sharma
Dr. Krishan Kumar Sharma



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