Home » Online Therapy » Grief

Grief is a natural and often painful part of life. Most of us will experience it at some point. Grief never leaves us completely, but if it becomes overwhelming, you may need help to process it.

What is grief?

Grief is a natural reaction to loss. It can be the loss of a loved one, a friend, a faithful pet, or even a change in life, such as retirement or children leaving home. The emotions of grief can be overwhelming and affect both our emotional and physical well-being.

Feel no sadness – is it possible?

Not feeling any grief is a utopia. Grief is part of life, and dealing with it is important for our mental health. However, there are ways to ease the pain and learn to live with it.

What set our therapist apart was her genuine empathy and personal insight. Not only did she possess a deep understanding of neurodiversity, but she also shared personal experiences that resonated with us, creating an instant connection and fostering a sense of trust!

Benedetta Osarenk

Our counsellors

Click here to view all psychologists, therapists, and coaches.

The stages of grief

Understanding the stages of grief is an important step in dealing with loss. Grief is not a linear process; these stages should be seen as guides rather than fixed steps. Each individual’s experience of grief is unique, and it is normal to move back and forth between these stages. Read more below.

Stage 1 Denial: a shock reaction

Denial is often the first reaction to a loss. It is a defence mechanism that helps us deal with the initial shock. During this phase, you may feel numb or find it hard to believe that the loss has really happened. It is a temporary relief that gives us time to process the reality gradually.

Stage 2 Anger: the search for a scapegoat

The anger that follows can be directed at other people, circumstances, or even the deceased. It can feel unfair and questions such as “Why me?” or “Why did this happen?” are common. This $1 is a natural part of the grieving process and a sign that the pain is starting to show.

Stage 3 Negotiation: The attempt to repent

The negotiation phase often involves internal ‘if only’ thinking, such as “If only we had gone to the doctor earlier” or “If only I had been there.” This thinking is an attempt to undo what has happened and can involve a lot of self-criticism.

Stage 4 Depression: Deep sadness and isolation

After working through the previous phases, there is often a period of deep sadness. This can feel like a heavy depression. You may withdraw from life, feel low and experience a lack of meaning. This phase is central to the grieving process and necessary for healing.

Stage 5 Acceptance: A new reality

Acceptance does not mean being ‘okay’ with the loss but rather accepting that it has happened and that life must go on. It is a gradual process of adjusting to a world without the deceased. It means finding new ways of living and often reassessing one’s role in life.

Book a meeting

Fill in the form, choose a counsellor, and proceed to payment.

14 FAQs about Grief

How long does grief last?

The duration of grief varies from person to person. There is no fixed time frame for the process, and allowing yourself to grieve at your own pace is important. For some, grief may ease after a few months, while for others, it may take years. It is important to remember that grief is an individual process.

What are the stages of grief?

The phases of grief include denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance, according to the Elisabeth Ku00fcbler-Ross model. These phases are not linear and can be experienced in different orders. Not everyone goes through all these phases, and it is normal to feel a mixture of emotions during the grieving process.

Can you get stuck in grief?

Yes, it is possible to get stuck in grief. This condition, known as complicated grief, occurs when a person has difficulty moving on from the loss and it affects their daily functioning. If you feel stuck in this state, it is important to seek professional help.

What does a person in grief need?

A bereaved person needs empathy, support and time to deal with their loss. It is important to listen without judgment and offer practical help when needed. Encouraging the person to express their feelings and seek professional help if necessary can also be very helpful.

How to deal with grief?

Coping with grief means allowing yourself to feel and express emotions. Talking to friends, family, or a therapist can be helpful. Engaging in meaningful activities and taking care of your physical and mental health is also important in the grieving process.

Is it normal to feel guilty during grief?

Yes, it is common to feel guilty when grieving. Many people experience guilt over things they said or didn’t say, or actions they did or didn’t take. It is important to acknowledge these feelings and work through them, possibly with the help of a therapist.

How does grief affect our relationships?

Grief can affect relationships in many ways. Some may feel closer to their loved ones, while others may withdraw. Communication and mutual understanding are crucial for navigating relationships during the grieving process.

Can children experience grief in the same way as adults?

Children do experience grief, but they may show it in different ways depending on their age and maturity. It is important to talk openly with children about death and give them space to express their feelings.

Are there ways to prepare for grief?

It is difficult to prepare for grief fully, but having a support system in place can be helpful. Understanding that the feeling is a natural and normal reaction can also provide some degree of preparation.

When to seek professional help for grief?

If grief feels overwhelming or if it is affecting your ability to manage everyday life, it may be time to seek professional help. Other signs include persistent depression, difficulty functioning at work or school, or thinking about suicide.

How can I support someone who is grieving?

Supporting someone in grief means being present and listening. Offer an ear to listen and a shoulder to cry on without trying to fix their state of mind. Practical help, such as helping with everyday chores, can also be valuable.

Is it okay to laugh and have happy moments during grief?

Absolutely. Laughing and having happy moments does not mean that you are not grieving. It is part of the human experience to have a spectrum of emotions, even during difficult times. Joy and sadness can exist side by side.

Does grief affect physical health?

Yes, grief can affect both mental and physical health. Symptoms such as sleep problems, changes in appetite, and exhaustion are common. Taking care of your physical health is an important part of grieving.

How to deal with anniversaries and special occasions?

Anniversaries, birthdays, and holidays can be difficult when grieving. Planning how you want to spend these days in advance can help. Honouring the deceased person in a meaningful way can also be a way to deal with these times.

The importance of time and expression

It is important to remember that these phases are not time-bound. Some can experience them quickly, while others need more time. Expressing your feelings, either through conversations with friends, journal writing, or by seeking professional help, is crucial to the healing process.

Ultimately, grief is a deeply personal and individual experience. Recognizing and understanding these stages can bring a sense of normality and structure to an otherwise chaotic and painful time. It is a step towards healing and finding new meaning in life after a loss.

Tools for coping with grief

When confronted with grief, it can feel like we have lost our footing in life. Dealing with it is a deeply personal process, but there are tools and methods that can help us navigate through this difficult time. Here are some strategies that can make grief processing easier.

Allow yourself to grieve

The first and most important step is to give yourself permission to grieve. Grief is a natural reaction to loss, and suppressing these feelings can make the pain worse in the long run. Accept that this is a process that takes time and that it is okay not to feel good.

Express your feelings

Express your feelings in a way that feels right for you. This could be crying, journaling, painting, composing music, or talking to a close friend or family member. Externalizing your emotions helps you to process them.

Seek support

Sharing your grief with others can be extremely healing. This may involve talking to friends and family, joining a support group, or seeking professional help from a psychologist or therapist. Feeling understood and supported is central to the healing process.

Taking care of your physical health

Grief affects not only your mental health but also your physical health. Ensure you eat a balanced diet, get enough sleep and exercise regularly. Taking care of your body will help strengthen your ability to deal with emotional stress.

Create a ritual or memorial

Creating a ritual or memorial can be a way to honour the deceased and process your loss. It can be something as simple as lighting a candle, visiting a special place, or writing a letter to someone who has passed away.

Set realistic goals

Grief can make everyday tasks overwhelming. Set realistic goals for yourself and break down larger tasks into smaller, manageable steps. Remember that it is okay to not be as productive as usual during this time.

Avoid making big life changes

Try to avoid making major life changes while you are in the midst of the grieving process. Major decisions should, if possible, be postponed until you feel more emotionally stable.

Seek professional help

If your grief feels overwhelming or if you are having difficulty managing your daily life, it may be wise to seek professional help. A psychologist or therapist can offer coping strategies and support you through the process.

Why Lavendla?


Lorem ipsum


Lorem ipsum


Lorem ipsum

Mindfulness and relaxation techniques

Mindfulness and relaxation techniques such as meditation or yoga can help manage the stress and anxiety that can arise from grief. These practices help to centre your thoughts and provide a sense of calm and control.

Write or talk about your memories

Reflecting on and sharing memories of the deceased can be a powerful way to honour them and work through your grief. It helps you appreciate the good times and recognize the importance of the relationship.

Using these tools allows us to process our grief and eventually find a new meaning and way forward in life. This is a journey, and although it can be painful, it can also lead to new strengths, wisdom and life balance.

Consequences of Unprocessed Grief

Unresolved grief can have far-reaching and sometimes serious consequences for both mental and physical health. Not allowing for or adequately managing grief can lead to a range of negative outcomes. It is important to be aware of these risks in order to take timely action.

Psychological consequences

  • Chronic depression: Prolonged unprocessed grief can develop into chronic depression. This condition is characterized by persistent feelings of loss, hopelessness and a lack of interest in life.
  • Anxiety disorders: People who do not process their grief may also develop anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety, panic attacks and social anxiety.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): In some cases, a sudden and traumatic loss can lead to PTSD, where the person experiences recurrent memories of the loss and intense psychological pain.

Physical consequences

  • Weakened immune system: Chronic stress and grief can weaken the immune system, making the body more vulnerable to infections and diseases.
  • Cardiovascular disease: Research has shown that unprocessed grief can increase the risk of heart problems, including heart attacks and strokes.
  • Sleep disorders: Grief can cause insomnia or other sleep disorders, negatively affecting overall health.

Emotional and social consequences

  • Isolation and loneliness: People who do not process their grief may withdraw from social interactions, leading to isolation and feelings of loneliness.
  • Reduced quality of life: Unprocessed grief can reduce an individual’s overall quality of life, which includes work, relationships and daily activities.
  • Problems in relationships: Difficulties in processing grief can cause tension and conflict in relationships, both family and friendships.

Behavioural consequences

  • Substance abuse: Some individuals may turn to alcohol or drugs to numb their grief, which can lead to abuse and addiction.
  • Self-destructive behaviour: There is a risk of self-destructive behaviour, including self-harm and suicidal thoughts, especially if the grief is intense and untreated.

Economic and professional consequences

  • Reduced work performance: Untreated grief can lead to reduced concentration and commitment at work, affecting productivity and career development.
  • Financial problems: Reduced work capacity or unemployment may cause financial problems, exacerbating the overall situation.

The need to seek help

These consequences underline the importance of actively seeking help to process grief. This may mean talking to a psychologist, attending support groups, or seeking professional help. Dealing with grief is important for your immediate health, long-term well-being, and quality of life. Unresolved grief does not go away by itself but requires attention, time, and sometimes professional intervention.

Grief in different life situations

Grief and loss can manifest in many different ways depending on the individual’s unique life situation. Each type of loss brings its own specific challenges and emotional responses. Below, we explore some common situations in which grief is experienced and how these specific losses can affect the individual.

Grief after the loss of a parent

Losing a parent is often one of life’s most poignant losses. It can feel like the loss of a protector, advisor, and central part of one’s identity. Whatever the age at which the loss occurs, it can provoke feelings of insecurity, emptiness, and sometimes regret or unresolved emotions. In particular, grieving for a mother or father can bring back memories from childhood and affect the way you view the world and relationships.

Grief after the loss of a partner

Losing a spouse often means losing a companion and a part of your daily life. It is an emotional loss and a practical and social change. Loneliness, identity crisis, and reassessment of future plans are common reactions. Bereavement often requires a redefinition of one’s role in life and society.

Grief in relation to children

The loss of a child is often considered one of the most painful experiences a person can go through. It goes against the natural order of life and can lead to deep and complex grief. Even parents can experience extreme grief, guilt, and a sense of meaninglessness. Support from family, friends and professionals is often crucial in dealing with this type of grief.

Grieving the loss of a pet

For many, pets are part of the family, and the loss of a pet can be as painful as the loss of a person. Grieving for a dog, cat or other pet can mean sadness, loneliness and a major change in daily routine. Many people underestimate this type of grief, which can make it difficult for the individual to find understanding and support.

Grief related to life changes

Loss does not always have to be related to death. Life changes such as divorce, children leaving home, job loss or retirement can also trigger grief. These situations involve a loss of part of one’s identity or lifestyle, which can lead to a grieving process.

Collective grief

Sometimes communities experience grief together, such as during major tragedies, disasters or national events. This type of grief, known as collective grief, can create a sense of togetherness while processing the shared loss.

Managing grief in these situations

Each unique situation requires an individual grieving process. It is important to recognize and respect this unique nature of grief. Seeking and accepting support through family, friends, support groups or professional help is crucial. Giving yourself time and space to grieve and understanding that the grief journey is different for everyone is key to processing and healing from the loss.

Grief is a journey that each of us experiences in our own way. There is no “right” way to grieve. Remember that it is okay not to be okay and that seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness.

Book a meeting

Fill in the form, choose a counsellor, and proceed to payment.

Dealing with grief: A guide to finding the way forward

Grief is a natural part of life, but navigating through it can feel overwhelming. Here is a step-by-step guide to help you begin dealing with your or someone else’s grief.

1. Acknowledge and accept your feelings

  • Recognize: Allow yourself to feel sadness, anger, confusion or other emotions. It is normal to experience a range of emotions.
  • Write down: Sometimes writing down your thoughts and feelings can help.

2. Seek support

  • Talk to loved ones: Share your feelings with family, friends or colleagues.
  • Professional support: Consider talking to a psychologist or therapist. Our service offers contact with qualified therapists online or in person.

3. Create routines

  • Daily routines: Sticking to a daily routine provides structure and stability.
  • Self-care: Prioritize your physical health by eating, sleeping, and exercising.

4. Find forms of expression

  • Creative expression: Express yourself through art, music or writing.
  • Memorials: Create rituals or memorials to honour the deceased.

5. Give yourself time

  • Patience: Understand that grief is a process that takes time. There is no fixed time frame.
  • Small steps: Take small steps every day and acknowledge your progress.

6. Reevaluate and adapt

  • Reflection: Reflect on your journey and adapt your coping methods if necessary.
  • Future planning: When you feel ready, start planning and setting new goals.

Remember that grief is an individual process and there is no “right” way to deal with it. It is important to be kind to yourself and give yourself the time and space needed to heal. If you feel that your grief is overwhelming, do not hesitate to seek professional help.

We support you by offering access to psychologists and therapists who can help you on your journey. For more information, visit our website.

Lavendla – Making the difficult easier

Written by samantha

Sr. Samantha Pieterse is a registered psychiatric nurse who is deeply committed to mental health and well-being. Samantha brings a unique and valuable perspective to her role as an editor for Lavendla South Africa. She has worked in Government and Private mental healthcare institutions in Gauteng and her expertise ensures that the articles on our website are accurate and accessible. Samantha is dedicated to enhancing mental health awareness and education in South Africa.