Unfortunately, grief is not a topic of in-depth discussion at most medical schools or general medical or psychiatry residency training programs. Thus, myth and innuendo substitute for evidence-based wisdom when it comes to understanding and dealing with this universal, sometimes debilitating human experience. When someone finds themselves confronted with the death of loved one, or another life loss, they struggle to come to terms with grief. This is one of life’s most challenging experiences and often we need help to come to terms with it.

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Grief is our personal experience of loss. It is multifaceted and can literally affect all areas of our life: spiritual, psychological, behavioral, social, and physical. It is a natural response to loss, the emotional suffering you feel when something or someone you love is taken away. The more significant the loss, the more intense the grief will be. One may associate grief with the death of a loved one—which is often the cause of the most intense type of grief—but any loss can cause grief, including: divorce or relationship breakup, loss of health, losing a job, loss of financial stability, a miscarriage, etc.

Loss causes pain. Losses may be both actual and symbolic

  • Actual loss is the death of a person we love and the deprivation of intimacy that flowed from our relationship with him or her. We lose companionship, laughter, sharing, and hugs.
  • Symbolic loss includes life events that are not yet and never will be: high school graduations, weddings, and births.

Stages of grief

In 1969, psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross introduced what became known as the “five stages of grief.”

  • Denial:“This can’t be happening to me.”
  • Anger:Why is this happening? Who is to blame?”
  • Bargaining:“Make this not happen, and in return I will ____.”
  • Depression:“I’m too sad to do anything.”
  • Acceptance:“I’m at peace with what happened.”

Grieving is a personal and highly individual experience. How you grieve depends on many factors, including your personality and coping style, your life experience, your faith, and the nature of the loss. The grieving process takes time. Healing happens gradually; it can’t be forced or hurried—and there is no “normal” timetable for grieving. Some people start to feel better in weeks or months. For others, the grieving process is measured in years. Whatever your grief experience, it’s important to be patient with yourself and allow the process to naturally unfold.


Maryam Riaz


Willing Ways, Islamabad