Why do we Grieve?

Whether it’s mourning a loved one or job loss, grief is a natural response to adjusting to sudden unwanted change.  When grief visits, for many, it is a time of confusion, vulnerability and sadness. Is is the unfolding of time in all of it’s raw and unyielding form. It is the change we often do not wish to see. It can feel powerless and is difficult to accept, especially when grief claims someone we love.

When the change that comes with grief means we cannot see the person, pet, relationship or experience anymore. It is normal to have feelings like depression, anxiety or even numbness or not feeling much of anything.

Sadness and depression helps us cope and honor the memory of the person or experience. Anger is also a reaction to loss that helps us fully realize, we did not want this change.  So why do we have to go through this process anyway?

“When great souls die,

the air around us becomes

light, rare, sterile.

We breathe, briefly.

Our eyes, briefly,

see with

a hurtful clarity.”

 -Maya Angelou

There is no other mechanism existing in life where we have an opportunity to mark the changing of our lives. Whether it’s the loss of a relationship, person, pet or job, this is how we emotionally process the transitions involved in the many adaptations we undergo in life as we grow and learn.

Grief, is a natural response, albeit a painful one at times, to adjusting to living in this ever changing world. Whether it’s mourning a job loss or death of a loved one, it’s presence tells us, our relationships aren’t fixed and do not last forever.

The attachments we have will end and change. We must be willing to accept and move with those changes. Complex grief can occur when we have extreme difficulty adjusting to the change grief brings and just cannot seem to integrate the change into one’s life.

The Grieving Process

The best way to manage is to allow the feelings of grief to emerge and be felt. The biggest difficulty with this is the fear of actually feeling the emotional pain of sudden unwanted change, which just plain hurts.

There is no other word or way to describe it, other than it’s painful. It is common to want to avoid feelings that cause discomfort, however, numbing, escaping or avoiding this pain only intensifies its presence.

Grief is meant to be seen, it is meant to be center stage when it appears and will not accept anything less than being front and center in your face!

So, feel, allow yourself to hurt, because something just happened, that not only wasn’t expected but also isn’t well enjoyed, and your feelings have something to say about it.

Grief makes unwanted house calls

One day I was sweeping the floor, when suddenly without warning, grief broke down the doors in my mind and swept in. Out of nowhere, I was hit hard with a wave of sadness leaving me in a pile of tears over my recently deceased mother at the time. The memories of the ones we love aren’t convenient, and will make appearances in our lives when we least expect it, which can feel like a roller coaster at times.

The intrusiveness of painful grief can feel overwhelming and difficult. This is often due to the fearful thought of endless  hours of tears, which may actually be the case. When grief is allowed a platform to speak it’s truth which is, ‘this really hurts, I miss what I had’, then it can make it easier to adjust to the new normal.

Stages of Grief

Swiss American psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross (2014) created the 5 stages of grief based on her research and goes in depth on these stages in the book, On death and Dying. The stages of grief are essentially a person’s response to grief and can stem from any type of loss. Everyone experiences grief differently, speaking with a grief counselor, mental health professional or support group can help the experience.

The five stages of Grief:

Denial – Complete shock and denial the incident occurred, just disbelief. The only way to deal with denial is time to cope with the loss and the life changes that come with it.

Anger – Anger tells you what you do not like. The feeling of anger at what grief has delivered is very real. Expressing feelings of anger through journaling, support groups, friends, family members, or therapy, is vital to adjusting to the change brought by grief.

Bargaining – Trying to make a deal in order to prevent or change what’s happened due to the refusal to accept what’s happened. Sometimes guilt or shame over the loss can intensify these feelings.

Depression – While depression is sometimes seen as an enemy, it’s value in grief is important. Depression allows us to honor the memory of the person lost and adjust to the new change.

Acceptance – Learning to move on in life with the change that has occurred. This usually takes time and patience. Acceptance doesn’t mean the feelings around the loss are gone, it means the individual is accepting and adjusting to the new change in their life.

Grief is a normal part of the human condition. Understanding it is important in learning how to cope when we find it at our door.  Allowing for the pain that can accompany change is an important process in adjusting to the sometimes sudden transitions occurring in our lives.

-Dr. Africa L Rainey, M.A, LCPC, Ed.D


Kübler-Ross, E. (2014). On Death and Dying: What the Dying Have to Teach Doctors, Nurses, Clergy and Their Own Families. Scribner.






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