Understanding why we grieve and its purpose can help you navigate the complex emotions you might be experiencing.
In this article, we’ll explore the reasons behind grief, its various stages, and how it varies from person to person. We’ll also offer advice on thinking about your loved one as you undergo the grieving process.
Why do we experience grief?
Grief is an emotional response to loss. It is an intuitive, necessary part of the healing process that allows you to come to terms with the absence of a loved one. There are several reasons why we experience grief:
- Attachment: Our emotional bonds with others are what make us human. When those connections are severed, it’s only natural to feel sadness and a sense of loss.
- Acceptance: Grieving is an important process for accepting the reality of your loss and finding a way to move forward.
- Emotional expression: Grieving allows you to express your emotions, which can help you process the pain and find a new normal.
What’s the point of grief?
Although it may seem cruel and painful, grief serves a purpose. It helps you:
- Process your loss: By allowing yourself to feel and express your emotions, you can begin to make sense of the loss and heal.
- Adapt to a new reality: Grieving helps you accept that your loved one is gone and adjust to life without them.
- Find meaning and growth: The grieving process can lead to personal growth and a newfound appreciation for life.
- Honour your loved one: Grieving is a way of keeping the memory of your loved one alive and honouring the relationship you shared.
There are various explanations for grief, and it’s important to remember that everyone experiences grief differently. Many people find Kübler-Ross’s five stages model to be a helpful way of thinking about grief. However, it’s important to remember that this is just one model of grief – experiencing the stages out of order, all at the same time or not at all is completely normal. These stages, originally identified by Dr Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, include the following:
The Stages of Grief
- Denial: You may struggle to accept the reality of your loss.
- Anger: It’s common to feel anger or resentment toward the situation or even the person who has passed away.
- Bargaining: You might deal with a higher power or yourself to reverse or lessen the loss.
- Depression: Disarm and despair can set in as your loss sinks in.
- Acceptance: Eventually, you come to terms with your loss and move forward.
These stages are not linear, and moving back and forth between them is normal as you navigate your grief journey.
People Experience Grief Differently
Remembering that there is no ‘right’ way to grieve is important. People experience grief differently, and each person’s journey will be unique. Factors that can influence your grieving process include:
- Personal coping style: Some people may be more expressive, while others may prefer to keep their emotions to themselves.
- Support system: The presence of friends and family can greatly impact your grief journey.
- Cultural and religious beliefs: Different cultures and religions have unique perspectives on death and grieving, which can shape your experience.
- Relationship with the deceased: The nature of your relationship with the person who has passed away can influence your grieving process, including the intensity and duration of your grief.
Thinking About Your Loved One
Another purpose of grief is to keep the memory of your loved one alive and honour the relationship you shared. As you move through your grief journey, finding ways to remember your loved one can help you to heal. Here are some suggestions for keeping their memory alive:
- Share stories: Talk about your loved one with friends and family, sharing memories and stories of the times you spent together.
- Create a memorial: Establish a physical or digital space to display photos, souvenirs, or other items that remind you of your loved one.
- Engage in activities: Participate in activities that your loved one enjoyed or held special significance in your relationship.
- Continue their legacy: Carry on your loved one’s values, beliefs, or passions by engaging in meaningful projects or causes that were important to them.
Grief is a natural and necessary part of the healing process when you experience loss. Understanding why we grieve and its purpose can help you navigate the complex emotions of losing a loved one.
Remember that the grieving process is unique to each person and that there is no right or wrong way to experience grief. Honouring and remembering your loved one can help you find meaning and growth through your grief journey.
For more guidance and resources on grieving, consider exploring Julia Samuel’s work, a renowned grief expert, and the Grief Works app, which offers helpful tools for those experiencing loss.
Find Grief Support with Grief Works by Illume
Getting support when grieving is essential, but it can be challenging.
The Grief Works app offers 24/7 support in the palm of your hand. The 28-session therapeutic course will help you process your grief at your own pace, and you’ll gain access to 30+ interactive tools to manage your emotions when you need them.
Connect with a community that cares for you, attend live monthly group sessions with Julia herself and have the option to text-chat to a counsellor when needed.
Reach out for support now to take the first step towards soothing your pain, building your strength and healing from grief.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why do we experience grief?
We experience grief as an emotional response to loss. It is a natural and necessary part of the healing process that allows us to process our emotions, accept the reality of the grief, and move forward.
What is the purpose of grief?
Grief serves several purposes, including processing loss, adapting to a new reality, finding meaning and growth, and honouring our loved ones.
What are the stages of grief?
The ‘Grief Cycle’ includes denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. These stages are not linear, and moving back and forth between them is normal during the grieving process.
Is it normal for people to grieve differently?
Yes, it is normal for people to grieve differently. Factors such as personal coping style, support system, cultural and religious beliefs, and the relationship with the deceased can all influence an individual’s grieving process.