Find help and online resources for:

Mental health problems


Most people have experienced grief to one degree or another. When grief strikes, it may seem impossible to live on. But no matter how impossible the grief feels there and then, there are ways through and out of the grief. 

 Image: Dreamstime (with licence)

Grief is something that affects everyone. This is because grief is a natural reaction to losing something that means a lot to us. As long as we have something or someone we love, we will sooner or later be affected by grief. 

To put it simply: Grief is a natural reaction to having lost something / lost something that is not replaced, and the more valuable what was lost, the deeper the grief becomes. Grief is experienced as having a wound cut into the soul.

But there are ways out of grief. True, they can be longer and heavier than you might think. It would have been so good if the grief passed quickly, and for some the grief becomes so heavy that they hardly want to deal with it. Here you learn about how grief often occurs, what you need to know about grief, and how it passes. 


When the grief strikes

When grief strikes, there are different ways to deal with it. Many people start doing the usual things quickly again, go to school / work, go out with friends, and do leisure activities. This is a way to cope with everyday life, to have something to fill it with. It can be terribly heavy at times, and then it can be difficult to ask for help. During difficult periods, you can become more indifferent, tired faster, a little more negative, irritable and impatient. It is important not to be afraid to say that it is heavy. For someone who is in grief, more energy is required to live normally.


Does the grief pass?

The very first question that thus arises is to what extent grief always passes. It is not so easy to give a simple answer! But what is certain is this: Grief always passes ... into something else.

In other words, the way you feel now (if you are in grief), the way you do not always want it. The grief will not always be as strong as it is at its strongest. It will not always be there as much, as when it hits the worst. And at the same time: it may never completely disappear either. It becomes part of your life story, part of who you are, part of your life - and you will be able to bring it out. But luckily too ... put it away again.


Common phases of grief

It is important to know that grief acts in different ways for different people. Thus, only you know what it is like for you to be in grief.

Still, I will try to say something about how grief often occurs. Please note that the content of this article is not directly taken from the professional literature, but are separate considerations about grief. As I see it, grief (and the way out of grief) can be understood through the following steps:


1) The loss happening

Humans are equipped with a brain, and the brain is programmed to react with emotions when certain things happen. Sadness is a basic feeling we have, and occurs when we somehow lose something that matters to us, or if we expect to be able to lose something.

Grief is in many ways a very strong variant of being sad, a very strong variant of having lost something (or expecting to lose something) which means a lot to us. Grief can therefore occur even if we have not really lost anything valuable, but can occur when we feel / think / are convinced that we have (or will) lose something important. 

Examples of what can trigger grief are:

  • Someone who is close to us dies
  • Someone close to us is injured / ill
  • Love-related grief: breakup in a love affair; or a relationship that never happens
  • We're losing a job we loved / needed
  • We lose a friend; he / she moves, rejects us, the friendship slips into nothingness
  • We lose our good name and reputation; being humiliated, coming into disgrace
  • We get sick or disabled; loses function, or loses future opportunities
  • We're losing money
  • We'll have to move out of the house
  • Etc

In other words, every loss of anything that matters to us can trigger grief. The more significant the loss, the deeper the grief. If you have lost someone close to you and are in grief, you can know this: The grief shows that you had the person very dear! There may be no consolation. In grief, it is just hard to find comfort! 


1) Acknowledge the loss

For various reasons, it can be difficult to acknowledge a loss. Such a lack of recognition will in many cases be an important protection mechanism. We need not be overwhelmed by grief and sadness, and we therefore embellish (a little or a lot) on reality.

In the event of death in a close family, this may at the beginning of the grieving process take the form of denying that it has happened: "It can not be true!" one thinks. "It can't possibly be true!" "This is not happening!" "I must have misunderstood" However, deaths will rarely be denied over time. The truth catches up with us, and we must eventually acknowledge the loss. "That's actually true." "He / she is actually gone."

However, there can be many ways to hold back the recognition of what has happened. On the one hand you know that the person is dead, on the other hand you do not want to move on, but hold back. One does not let the thoughts slip that the deceased is gone, one does not make changes, but puts life on "pause" - as if the dead are not gone.

In other types of grief, the loss is less obvious, and it then becomes even more common not to acknowledge it. For example, when we are affected by illness. We may not acknowledge that this will actually have consequences for us, that it will prevent us from certain things that we really wanted to experience. Love-related grief is another example: In the aftermath of a breakup, we may not acknowledge the breakup - but hope (despite better knowledge) that it will work out. Or by love grief over relationships that have not yet come into being. We do not acknowledge (despite better knowledge) that it will actually never be!

Some types of grief can only pass when you acknowledge the loss that you have so far pushed in front of you, that you have so far not wanted to take over.


3) Suffer from the loss

The next stage in grief is therefore to suffer the loss. That is, to let go of those feelings that come with acknowledging the loss. 

True enough, one would like to have suffered a lot even before one fully acknowledges that what was lost is actually lost. But there is another form of suffering in which one seriously understands (or accepts) what has happened, or for that matter: that which will never happen. 

This phase is particularly heavy, and if one has long "defended" oneself against acknowledging the lost, it can feel absolutely overwhelming to have to go into it. At the same time, there is something liberating about getting into the part of grief where you actually feel sadness all over - without embellishing it - without adding various forms of denial of what has happened. 

Remember that grief is like having a wound cut in the soul, and in this phase of grief the wound is at its most open.


4) Closing the case

The next phase in grief is therefore to close again. It is rare that this is done quickly, in the same way that a large wound does not heal overnight. The greater the grief - the greater the wound - the more time is needed for the wound to heal. 

How grief is closed again differs from person to person, and it is different for different types of grief. When we lose someone in a death, this can happen very gradually. From day to day we learn to live with the fact that the deceased is no longer among us, and it can feel as if the wound will never heal.

Remember then that there is no hurry to "finish" the grief. The more significant the person was to you, the deeper the grief, and the longer you will need to find a way to live with it.

It is also important to remember that even if the grief is "closed down", it does not mean that we are finished with the loss. Just as a large wound will leave a scar, so it is with deep sorrows in life: They mark us for life! They leave a scar. 


5) Finding a way ahead

The next phase in grief is therefore to find the way forward. In many ways, this is a process that starts already when you are affected by the loss. Even then, you just have to move on in life. Even though it feels like it, life does not stop, the days go on, and the world goes on.  

Nevertheless, it is only after going through the previously mentioned phases - to suffer a loss, to acknowledge the loss, to suffer under it, and to close again - that it is really about finding the way forward.

Life will never be the same, and we know it. Now it's about making the best of it. Not to forget, but to allow oneself not to be sad all the time. 

And little by little it is as if you are rediscovering the life you had. This in itself can be painful. "Can I afford to be happy again after this?" you are welcome to ask. One has to turn the question upside down: "Can I afford to never be happy?" This is because we also have others we love, who need us, and who need us to be there for them. 

Most sorrows are put behind us in a way. They are not forgotten, they are not unimportant, but life may still go on - and in a way, be normalized.

  • Read more: When the grief do not recover. What is complicated grief? (to be updated)

Also read