Grief is our response to loss. When we lose someone we love - a partner, a parent, a child, relative, friend or a much-loved pet – we grieve.
We can also grieve when we lose something of ourselves - our health or mobility - and sometimes we grieve over lost opportunities, lost employment, and lost things.
Grieving is an intensely personal experience. People may say, "I know what you're going through' because they may have had a similar loss to you, but their experience will be different to yours.
Grief doesn't observe a timetable. It takes as long as it takes, and it comes and goes. Grief can be overwhelming and unexpected and, over time, becomes part of us and the life we lead.
When we grieve we can feel very alone, even if we’re surrounded by family and friends.
After the loss of a loved one, it's as if the world we knew has changed forever. In many ways, it has.
Experiencing a flood of emotions and sensations, all at once, with no rhyme or reason, is part of it too. Sadness, anger, fear, loneliness, guilt, emptiness, tearful, out of control, irritable. These feelings are part of the grieving process.
There are physical symptoms too as your body responds to stress and grief, for example: insomnia, loss of appetite, extreme fatigue, headaches, and weight loss.
Some days you may not want to get out of bed. Sometimes you might sit up all night in a chair, or lose your temper in a flash. Some of these emotional responses may shock you.
Allow yourself time and permission to grieve.
A child's understanding of death and loss depends on their age.
Giving your child 'age appropriate' information, communicated in a way that they can relate to, will help them gain some understanding of death, dying, and grief. If there is serious illness within the family, keeping your children informed is a continual process.
Conversations with your children about death, dying, illness and loss are ongoing because they will keep asking questions and sometimes ask the same question more than once. A child's understanding of a situation may change over time because their ability to make sense of something will change with their development age and stage. Unlike adults they can't always remember what happened and may need repeated explanations and conversations to make sense of it.
Ongoing clinical research suggests that providing children with age appropriate support during times of grief and loss can improve their understanding of death and dying and avoid emotional problems later in life.
0-2 years respond more to the distress of the caregiver rather than to the person who has died or is seriously ill. More information.
2-5 years cannot find the language to talk about death and loss. Responses manifest as actions. More information.
5-8 years have a better grasp of death but do not fully understand the concept, still believing that the person who has died will come back, or that the person who is seriously ill will get better. More information.
10+ years, the 'teenage years' where children and young people are egocentric. Although they will understand death and serious illness, they may resent having to do more to help out, or dislike the feeling of being 'uncool' if a parent has cancer or has died. More information.