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Grief: When The Familiar Is No More

We have all experienced grief at some point in our lives. It is a universal experience, and it is not only about losing someone through death. If you do a Google search on grief, you will easily come across multiple definitions. I happened to find one that I think really encompasses what grief is, and I think it speaks to grief of all kinds. According to The Grief Recovery Method, “Grief is the conflicting feelings caused by the end of or change in a familiar pattern of behavior.

When I read that definition, I not only think about the death of people in my life, but also other forms of grief I have experienced or have heard others experience. When we think of grief, we might think about the loss of a pet due to death or having to give them back to a shelter. We might think about the loss or change of a family due to divorce, separation, or breakups. We might also think about the loss of ability due to mental or physical illnesses. Other forms of grief that might not be as easily recognized could be due to the loss of goals or dreams, a move, or even a job change. Common emotions that are associated with grief are sadness, anxiety, depression, and anger. One might also find themselves feeling stuck with guilt, confusion, or ambivalence.

Children can also experience grief due to loss or change. If your child has experienced something like this recently, you might notice them appearing more sad and angry, or they might be displaying an increase in negative behaviors. I would encourage you to explore with your child what might be going on for them. If they have experienced the loss of a loved one due to death, include them in any services or celebrations. Maybe they can say something if they are comfortable and able to do so, or maybe they can draw a picture for their loved one. I also encourage you to give them age appropriate, correct information. Below is a link to a list of ways you can talk with your child about grief and loss.

Grief can be a difficult topic for people to discuss. It might make us feel uncomfortable, embarrassed, or alone. If you are grieving, I encourage you to lean into your support system, establish a healthy routine for yourself, and allow yourself to grieve. Grief can come in waves, which is completely normal. As you experience it, provide some self-compassion, take a deep breath, or use some positive self-talk.

If someone comes to you talking about grief they are experiencing, here are some things not to say:

1. “You’re still grieving? You should be over that by now.”

2. “At least they’re at peace now.”

*While this might sound comforting, it could leave the person grieving feel alone or sad.

3. Do not compare the person’s grief with someone else’s or your own. We all experience grief and loss, and we all need to do so in our own way.

Here are some things you could say to someone who is grieving:

1. “I’m here for you.”

2. “That sounds really hard.”

3. “Please, tell me about your feelings”


Written by Candace Hanson, MA, LMFT


How to talk to your child if they are grieving:

Friedman, R. (2013, June 4). The Best Grief Definition You Will Ever Find. [Blog post]. Retrieved from

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By | 2017-12-22T16:45:11+00:00 December 27th, 2017|Blog|0 Comments