Riding the Waves of Grief: Understanding Why Grief Comes in Waves

Dealing with grief is a deeply personal and challenging experience that most of us encounter at some point in our lives.
By illume Editorial Team
Last updated: Jul 19, 2023
10 min read
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Whether it’s the loss of a loved one, a pet, or a significant life change, grief can wash over us like waves, leaving us feeling overwhelmed and unsure of how to cope. In this blog, we will explore the reasons behind why grief comes in waves, how it affects our mental health, and how having a support system can help us navigate these emotional tides.

Understanding the Nature of Grief:

Grief is a natural response to the loss of someone or something we hold dear. Just like the ocean’s waves, grief can be unpredictable, crashing into our lives unexpectedly and at times, receding into the background. The experience of grief can vary greatly from person to person, as it is influenced by factors such as our relationship with the person we lost, the circumstances surrounding the death or loss, and our individual coping mechanisms.

The Stages of Grief:

Grief often follows a non-linear path and is commonly described in stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. These stages are not necessarily experienced in a linear order, and individuals may find themselves moving back and forth between them. Each stage is like a wave, carrying its unique set of emotions and challenges.

Catching Your Breath Amidst the Waves:

When grief comes crashing down, it can feel suffocating, leaving us struggling to catch our breath. It’s essential to remember that it’s okay to feel overwhelmed during this time. Give yourself permission to experience grief fully, allowing those emotions to wash over you like waves. Embracing these feelings is part of the healing process and an essential aspect of emotional growth.

Why Grief Doesn’t Have a Timetable:

One reason grief comes in waves is that it doesn’t follow a strict timetable. Some days may be more manageable, and you might feel like you’re making progress, only to be hit by a massive wave of grief seemingly out of nowhere. These waves can be triggered by a memory, a special date, or even a random thought. Be patient with yourself during this time, as healing takes time and varies for each individual.

The Importance of a Support System:

When navigating through the stormy waters of grief, having a support system can make all the difference. Family members, friends, or grief support groups can provide a safe space to express your feelings without judgement. Talking about your loss and sharing memories can be cathartic and help you process your emotions. Your support system can also be a lifeline during times when the waves feel overwhelming, providing comfort and a sense of grounding.

Finding Light as the Waves Get Smaller:

As time passes, you may notice that the waves of grief become smaller and less frequent. This doesn’t mean you’re forgetting your loved one or the significance of your loss. Instead, it shows that you’re gradually adapting to life without their physical presence. While the pain may never completely disappear, it will become more manageable as you continue to heal and grow through the grieving process.

Navigating Grief-Induced Depression or Anxiety:

It’s important to recognize that grief and depression are different, but they can coexist. Grief is a natural response to loss, whereas depression is a medical condition. If you find yourself experiencing prolonged and intense feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or struggle to carry out daily activities, consider seeking professional support. A mental health professional can help you distinguish between grief and depression, offering guidance and appropriate treatment if needed.


Experiencing grief is an inevitable part of the human experience. Like the ocean’s waves, grief comes and goes, but with the right support system and understanding, you can ride through the emotional tides. Remember, healing takes time, and it’s crucial to be patient and compassionate with yourself throughout the journey. Cherish the memories of your loved ones and spend time with those who can offer you comfort and understanding as you navigate the waves of grief.