Grief – Sadness or really love?

Grief Post 1

“Grief, I’ve learned, is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give, but cannot. All that unspent love that gathers up in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in the hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go.” 

Table of Contents

What is grief

We all experience many different kinds of loss throughout our lives and a normal humane response or reaction to loss may be described as grief. It is however difficult to put only one definition or meaning to the word grief in which we all add our own meaning and definition to grief when we experience the process.

Grief may further be devived into two aspects; bereavement and mourning.

  • Bereavement: The APA dictionary for psychology describes bereavement as the result of losing a loved one to death,
  • Mourning:  APA describes  mourning as the process of feeling or expressing grief following the death of a loved one, or the period during which this occurs.” 

When considering the definitions of bereavement and mourning (above) as part of the grief process, it is important to remember that we as humans don’t only grieve the loss(death) of a loved one. People may grieve many things such as:

  • Death of an animal
  • End of a phase of life
  • Divorce
  • Weightloss
  • Personal injury or illness 
  • Pre-covid health
  • Birth of a child (loss of the  previous phase of life)
  • Dismissal from work
  • Changes in a loved one’s health
  • The grief of parents of stillborn babies
  • Nurse losing patients to death etc.

These experiences are often brushed off as ‘not important enough’ to grieve about, this grief might be coined as disenfranchised grief or hidden grief(type of grief) in which individuals suppress these feelings of grief and reassure themselves that they are not ‘allowed’ to grieve these things. A part of society subtly limits grief only to the death of a loved one, which needs to be challenged because we all grieve different things in different ways.

For a long time, I struggled with disenfranchised grief when I left university, where all my friends continued their postgraduate studies, and continued my postgraduate studies back home. I grieved the loss of a support system to such an extent that I fell into a deep, dark depressive state where I kept telling myself that I was not allowed to grieve the loss of something so ‘stupid’, only to discover much later on, that I was allowed to feel grief because that was my brain’s natural response to that loss.

Types of grief 

As mentioned earlier, we all grieve in different ways for different things and the types of grief come into play when considering types of grief. Loss happens in many different ways for many different situations, read more about the types of grief here:

  1. Normal grief
  2. Complicated grief
  3. Traumatic grief
  4. Chronic grief
  5. Anticipatory grief
  6. Disenfranchised grief
  7. Distorted grief
  8. Exaggerated grief
  9. Masked grief
  10. Inhibited grief
  11. Collective grief
  12. Cumulative grief
  13. Prolonged grief
  14. Abbreviated grief
  15. Delayed grief
  16. Absent grief

Reactions to grief

When we experience something traumatic such as a loss, our whole body reacts to the experience in ways we might not be aware of. Remember that one might experience more reactions to grief than mentioned below. Here are some of the main reactions to grief that one might experience or notice:

  • Emotional reactions
    • Anger
    • Despair
    • Depression
    • Loneliness
    • Fear
    • Guilt
    • Bitterness
    • Anxiety
    • Sadness
    • Irritability
    • Shock
    • Helplessness
    • Longing etc.


  • Physical reactions
    • Heart palpitations
    • Sleep disturbances
    • Nausea
    • Energy lacking
    • Sobbing
    • Muscle tension
    • Feeling faint
    • Bodily weakness
    • Headaches etc.
  • Behavioural changes
    • Blaming others
    • Loss of interest in life
    • Neglecting your self-care
    • Avoiding situations or others
    • Increased use of alcohol, drugs, or medications
  • Societal reactions
    • Withdrawing oneself from family and friends
    • Avoiding interaction with family, friends, or colleagues
    • More dependant on others
    • Difficulty with relationships
  • Cognitive reactions
    • Suicidal thoughts
    • Confusion
    • Short-term memory loss
    • Concentration difficulties
    • Indecisive
    • Dreams increase or decrease
  • Spiritual reactions
    • Anger towards ‘higher power’
    • Asking ‘why’ it happened
    • Trying to find the meaning of loss
    • Faith is strengthening or weakening

Coping with these reactions to grief might take a holistic effort to attend to all the reactions you are experiencing. These reactions to grief further tie in with the stages of grief one might experience simultaneously or separately.

What does grief look like?

Sobbing, frowning, screaming, and neutral facial expressions are all examples that pop up in our minds when think of how grief looks or should look. Grief actually has many faces, someone can be grieving and smile at the same time… Grief looks different on different faces. Here are some examples of how grief may look:


Faces showing grief

Am I grieving?

 Have you ever wondered if, what you are feeling, stems from loss? Answer or journal the following questions for yourself, it might help you gain clarity about what you are possibly grieving and why you are grieving it:

  1. Have I experienced loss? What is this loss?
  2. Why am I grieving this loss?
  3. Have I grieved about this loss? In what ways or how?
  4. What reactions did I experience from this loss?
  5. How have I attended to these reactions?
  6. What can I do to make the grieving process easier for myself?
  7. How can other people help me with my grieving process?
  8. Are loved ones or other people also grieving about this specific loss?
  9. How do I communicate the specific needs of my grieving, to loved ones?

Reaching for help

We all need help sometimes especially when we can no longer help ourselves or don’t have the knowledge or skills to. Refer to these options below, to reach out for help:


  1. Online counselling with Therapy Bee:
    1. Book online:
    2. Call: +27 76 754 5933
    3. Email: [email protected]
  2. SADAG Mental Health Line:
    1. Call: 011 234 4837
  3. National Counselling Line:
    1. Call: 0861 322 322

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