Understanding the Hardest Parts of Grief: Navigating the Path to Healing

Grief is an incredibly complex and personal experience, affecting individuals in various ways.
By illume Editorial Team
Last updated: Jul 19, 2023
10 min read
Understanding the Hardest Parts of Grief: Navigating the Path to Healing

Coping with the death of a loved one or navigating the grieving process after a terminal illness can be overwhelming. At times, it may feel like a never-ending rollercoaster of emotions, leaving us searching for answers and support. In this blog, we explore the hardest parts of grief that most people face, offering insights and understanding to help you on your journey towards healing. 

The Intense Emotional Rollercoaster

Grief is a rollercoaster ride of emotions, taking individuals on a journey filled with highs and lows. One of the hardest parts of grief is the overwhelming intensity of these emotions, which can be difficult to navigate. Initially, shock and disbelief may set in, making it hard to accept the reality of the loss. Anger might follow, directed at oneself, others, or even the departed loved one. Feelings of profound sadness and sorrow can engulf individuals, making it challenging to find moments of respite.

During this emotional whirlwind, guilt can also rear its head, as survivors grapple with thoughts of what they could have done differently or how they might have contributed to the loss. Understanding that such emotions are natural and part of the grieving process can offer solace. It is essential to give yourself permission to experience these feelings without judgement.

Grief therapy techniques, like cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) and acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), can be immensely helpful during this phase. CBT focuses on identifying and challenging negative thought patterns, helping individuals regain control over their emotions. ACT, on the other hand, encourages acceptance of emotions and commitment to taking meaningful actions aligned with personal values, fostering psychological flexibility.

Adjusting to a New Reality

Losing a loved one fundamentally changes the dynamics of life, and adjusting to this new reality is one of the most challenging aspects of grief. The void left behind by the departed loved one can feel insurmountable. Simple day-to-day activities that were once shared become poignant reminders of their absence.

In this phase, grief therapy offers invaluable support and guidance. Grief counsellors can help individuals identify healthy coping mechanisms and strategies to navigate the adjustments required. By allowing themselves time and space to grieve, individuals can begin to find their footing and forge a path forward in life.
Navigating the Stages of Grief

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance) have become well-known, providing a framework to understand the grieving process. However, it is vital to remember that grief is not a linear journey, and individuals may experience these stages differently.

Some people may move through the stages in a progressive manner, while others might find themselves oscillating between them or experiencing them simultaneously. Grief counsellors are trained to support individuals through this nonlinear process, offering validation and understanding.

Through compassionate guidance, grief counsellors help individuals find acceptance and healing at their own pace. By acknowledging that each person’s grief journey is unique, counsellors foster a safe space for self-discovery and healing.

Complex Grief and Complicated Emotions

For some individuals, grief can become more complex, leading to what is known as complicated grief. This prolonged and intense grieving process can significantly impact day-to-day functioning and overall mental health. People experiencing complicated grief often find it difficult to come to terms with the loss, and they may become preoccupied with thoughts and memories of the departed loved one.

Feelings of longing, bitterness, and an inability to accept the loss are common hallmarks of complicated grief. In such cases, seeking help from a grief counsellor trained in grief therapy techniques is crucial. These professionals can provide specialised support to address and overcome the complex emotions associated with complicated grief.

Support for Family Members

Grief extends its reach beyond the individual who directly experiences the loss. Family members are deeply affected and often grapple with their own emotions while trying to support one another. However, finding the right way to provide support can be challenging, especially when everyone is dealing with their grief differently.

Grief therapy creates a safe and understanding environment for family members to express their emotions openly. Grief counsellors offer guidance on effective communication and coping strategies, fostering mutual support and understanding within the family unit. By working together through the grieving process, families can strengthen their bonds and collectively navigate the path to healing.

Coping with Grief during Special Occasions: Navigating Emotions on Milestone Days

Special occasions and holidays, which were once filled with joy and celebration, can become poignant reminders of the loved ones we have lost. Whether it’s birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, or festive holidays, these milestone days can be particularly challenging for those who are grieving. As family and friends gather to mark the occasion, feelings of sorrow and emptiness may intensify, making it difficult to fully participate in the festivities.

The Emotional Tug-of-War

During such events, individuals may find themselves caught in an emotional tug-of-war. On one hand, they may want to join in the celebrations to honour their loved one’s memory and maintain a sense of normalcy. On the other hand, grief can weigh heavily, leading to feelings of guilt or sadness for enjoying the moment without their presence. This conflict of emotions can be overwhelming, leaving individuals wondering how to find a balance between honouring their grief and acknowledging the joy of the occasion.

Support and Coping Strategies

In these challenging moments, the support of friends, family, and grief counsellors can be instrumental. Grief counsellors, in particular, can offer valuable guidance in developing coping strategies tailored to each person’s unique needs. These strategies may include:

Permission to Feel: Encouraging individuals to acknowledge and validate their emotions is crucial. It is okay to feel both joy and sorrow during these special occasions. Grief counsellors help individuals understand that having mixed emotions is normal and part of the healing process.

Plan Ahead: Planning ahead can help individuals manage their expectations and emotions. Discussing with family and friends about the loss and the potential impact on the occasion can create a supportive atmosphere. It allows for flexibility in how the event is approached, ensuring that everyone feels heard and understood.

Create New Traditions: Some individuals find comfort in creating new traditions or rituals to honour their loved one during special occasions. This could involve lighting a candle in their memory, sharing stories about them, or engaging in an activity that held significance for the departed loved one.

Take Time to Reflect: Allowing time for personal reflection and self-care on these milestone days can be beneficial. Taking a moment to honour the emotions associated with the occasion and the memories of the departed loved one can bring a sense of peace and healing.

Lean on Support: Surrounding oneself with understanding and compassionate individuals is essential. Connecting with others who have experienced similar losses can provide a sense of solidarity and comfort. Attending grief support groups or online communities can be valuable during these times.

Modify Participation: It’s okay to modify one’s level of participation in the event as needed. If attending certain activities feels overwhelming, taking breaks or stepping away temporarily to collect oneself is completely acceptable.

Honouring Memories with Love

Coping with grief during special occasions is an opportunity to honour the memories of our loved ones with love and compassion. While the emotions may be intense, these moments can also be a chance to celebrate the impact they had on our lives and the joy they brought.

Remember that there is no right or wrong way to grieve during special occasions. Each person’s journey is unique, and what matters most is finding a way to cope that feels authentic and healing. Seeking support from grief counsellors and leaning on the understanding of loved ones can be transformative during these challenging times.


Experiencing the loss of a loved one is undoubtedly one of life’s greatest challenges. The hardest parts of grief can be daunting, but with the right support, healing is possible. Remember, you are not alone in your grief. Reach out, seek help, and take the first step towards healing your heart and honouring your loved one’s memory.