Life as a journey can sometimes seem like a passage through a valley of tears. There are many joys to be had in this life like having friends, family, meaningful careers, ways to enjoy leisure, and the beautiful world around us. But our lives are also pockmarked with pain and loss of various kinds. One of the ways we respond to loss, whether it’s already happened or is imminent, is by grieving and dealing with grief.

Understanding how grief works in your life or the lives of your loved ones will help you discern what is going on when loss rears its head, and also how best to respond.

How grief comes into our lives

Many different experiences in life can be the cause of grief. When we grieve, we are undergoing a process of understanding our loss and overcoming that loss. When we love something or someone, we form attachments to them. Grief is the emotional suffering or pain that we experience when that person or thing is taken away from us. Some of the ways that grief comes into our lives include the following:


The death of a loved one is one of the more common causes of grief. They could be a sibling, parent, partner, friend, or your child. Often, the deeper and more intimate the relationship with the person, the more intense the feelings of loss may be. Grief may also be anticipatory, as when you hear of a loved one’s terminal diagnosis, and you experience grief ahead of an imminent loss.

Loss of independence

If you’re used to being independent and able to move around as and when you please, losing your independence when you have an accident and become disabled, for instance, can trigger a grief response. You are losing the life you had before, including certain abilities you possessed.

The end of a relationship

When a relationship comes to an end, that is another type of loss that can trigger grief. When you go through a bad breakup or a divorce, you can end up experiencing grief.

Loss of employment

Our work, for good or for ill, often defines us in significant ways. The loss of a job and everything it entails, including loss of income, and the end of certain relationships or prestige can bring about feelings of grief. This is why retirement is one stage of life that can often bring grief.


One of the most stressful events in a person’s life is moving. Moving can also trigger grief as it often implies leaving friendships, networks of support, familiar routines, and memories created in that place. It’s not uncommon for feelings of grief to accompany a major move.

In a similar vein, when one loses their home to a fire, or their valuable items via theft, that too can cause a sense of grief because of the attachment to those things.

Losing a cherished dream

When you’ve held onto a dream for a while and it is something precious to you, losing it or the opportunity to bring it to fruition can cause grief. That dream can be the dream of becoming a parent that is lost, or of attending a particular school.

Grief comes into our lives in these and many other ways. It can affect your sleep, your appetite, and how you function in everyday life. Though grief can become debilitating for you or your loved ones going through grief, you can deal with it and do so effectively.

Signs of grief

When grief comes into your life or the life of a loved one, recognizing the signs can help you to seek appropriate help. Grief and depression can be mistaken for one another, but one way to distinguish the two is that depression will often be accompanied by feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness. You should talk with a mental health professional if you’re experiencing symptoms that you aren’t certain of.

Grief will affect people differently, and so the symptoms a person experiences when they’re grieving won’t all look the same. A person may experience some of the following signs and symptoms of grief:


This is one of the more commonly experienced symptoms associated with grief. A person may feel deeply lonely, empty, and they may despair and have a sense of longing or yearning for their loved one or their cherished dream. It’s not uncommon for people to cry or feel teary.


Losing a loved one or a cherished dream means the loss of opportunity. You may have feelings of regret or guilt about things you did or did not say or do for your loved one, or you may feel guilty because of feelings such as relief that a loved one has died and no longer has to suffer illness.

Disbelief and shock

Immediately following a loss, accepting what just happened may be difficult, and you can feel numb or struggle to believe or accept what just happened. You might deny the truth of what happened, and even find yourself expecting to see your loved one again.


You may feel anger at yourself, your loved one, God, the doctors, another person that may have been involved in the loss, or just at the world around you. This anger stems from the need to blame someone for what has happened, even when it wasn’t anyone’s fault.


Losing something and someone that’s precious to you can make you fearful. Your world has been upended, and it’s not uncommon to feel a mixture of helplessness, insecurity, and anxiety about what the future holds.

You can also experience symptoms such as fatigue, nausea, compromised and lowered immunity, weight loss or weight gain, bodily aches and pains, insomnia, confusion, having trouble thinking or making decisions, feeling as if you’ve lost your sense of hope or direction, struggling to focus on anything other than your loss, and having difficulty remembering or keeping track of your responsibilities.

Dealing with grief, one day at a time

Grief is best understood as a process of coming to terms with loss. There are various stages to this process, but it’s accurate to say that the process of dealing with grief is a highly individual experience. This means there isn’t a right or a wrong way to grieve. The key thing is to allow yourself room to grieve and not to pretend that all is well.

How a person grieves will depend on factors such as their personality, how they cope with trouble, whether they have a robust emotional support network, the life experience they have, whether they have resources like faith available to them, as well as the kind of loss one is dealing with. Grieving will take time, but it’s impossible to determine exactly how much time it will take for someone to find healing after a loss.

As you or a loved one go through the grieving process, it’s important to realize that there isn’t a schedule for grieving, and the process can take anything from weeks to months or years. In some ways, one doesn’t stop grieving; rather, one learns to adapt and function in spite of the loss. It’s important to give yourself or your loved one time, and to be patient as the process unfolds.

The thing about dealing with grief is that you can’t control the process, but awareness of how grief works can help you prepare for the varying emotions and thoughts that will often intrude into daily life. If you’re grieving, it’s important to remain open to help. If it’s a loved one who’s grieving, be present and signal to them that you stand ready to help. It can feel awkward to try and comfort a grieving person, but just be present the best you can.

If you’ve experienced loss in your life, it can bring about many warring emotions and thoughts that make it hard to function in daily life. It’s important to take care of yourself by trying to sleep and eat well, as well as through leaning on your support network. If it’s a loved one who has experienced loss, you can try to support them. Don’t minimize their loss but stand ready to listen and be present for them.

Talking with someone like a psychologist or grief counselor can also be a huge help. Sometimes grief brings about pain and feelings such as guilt over a loved one’s death. Talking with someone can help you process what you’re feeling, and it can help you as you adjust to the new reality you live in. You or your loved one can work through these difficult emotions and learn to live life after loss. To speak to a grief counselor, give us a call today.

“In Loving Memory”, Courtesy of Sandy Millar,, CC0 License; “Tough Times”, Courtesy of Ben White,, CC0 License; “Candles on the Water”, Courtesy of Mike Labrum,, CC0 License; “Two Roads” Courtesy of Jens Lelie,, CC0 License


Articles are intended for informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice; the Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. All opinions expressed by authors and quoted sources are their own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editors, publishers or editorial boards of Bothell Christian Counseling. This website does not recommend or endorse any specific tests, physicians, products, procedures, opinions, or other information that may be mentioned on the Site. Reliance on any information provided by this website is solely at your own risk.