griefGrief is the natural reaction to loss, and can influence the physical, emotional, cognitive, behavioural and spiritual aspects of our lives. Grief can be experienced in response to a variety of loss-related events, such as the death of a loved one, separation or divorce, the loss of a sense of safety or predictability, physical incapacity through disability, or the loss of one’s home or community due to disaster.

People respond to loss in a variety of ways. Whilst some might find it helpful to talk openly about the experience, others might prefer time alone. The intensity and duration of the grieving process also differs between individuals. For most people, the experience of grief will dominate their emotions, thoughts, and behaviours for a number of weeks or months. As time passes, most individuals learn to cope with their grief and go about their daily lives, although for many the loss will remain a part of them. Most bereaved people will not need professional help, however a significant minority (estimated at 10 to 20%) seek and require professional support.

Signs and symptoms

Grief is an individual experience and, as a result, there is no prescribed trajectory that people will progress through. Rather, a variety of emotions, thoughts, sensations, and behaviours can be associated with the grief experience, including4:


  • Sadness
  • Anger
  • Guilt and remorse
  • Anxiety
  • Loneliness
  • Helplessness
  • Shock and disbelief
  • A sense of yearning
  • Relief.


  • Confusion
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Preoccupation with the loss
  • A loss of interest in pleasurable activities
  • Vivid dreams or nightmares.

Physical and behavioural

  • Muscle tightness
  • Fatigue/reduction in energy
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Social withdrawal
  • Changes in appetite
  • Crying
  • Restlessness
  • Avoiding places or people who remind the individual of the loss
  • Treasuring objects that are associated with the loss.

In addition to these, there can be significant changes in spiritual or philosophical views and beliefs.

How to manage grief

  • Self-care
  • Social support
  • Psychological strategies

How a psychologist can help:

Grief is a normal response to loss, and while many people will learn to adjust to the loss on their own, some individuals may require assistance by a psychologist to help them adjust to their loss and cope with their grief. Through discussion with the client and an assessment of their wellbeing, the psychologist gains an understanding of the client’s situation and a treatment plan is developed.

More information

Australian Psychological Societyaps
Australia’s largest professional association for psychologists


Australian Centre for Grief and Bereavementacfgb
Australia’s largest provider of grief and bereavement clinical services and education


Provides information on anxiety, depression, and related disorders


Australia’s National Youth Mental Health Foundation, providing assistance for individuals aged 12-25


A 24-hour counselling, suicide prevention and mental health support service
Telephone: 13 11 14


External links

Source: The Australian Psychological Society Limited.  2015 Christopher Hall Director
Australian Centre for Grief and Bereavement