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Grief: Experienced and Defined

By Chaplain Julia Rajtar, MAPS, BCC  


“I miss my parents so much. I miss talking with them, seeking their guidance, I miss our Tuesday night dinners, and each day I feel like there’s a tidal wave of other losses I discover, now that they are gone.”  Jacqlin said “my heart hurts so much watching dad disappear with dementia. Not only is dad going, but so is my company.  On one hand parking is a lot easier since some staff have already left, on the other hand, there is a deafening silence walking past the empty workstations.  I’m afraid too that I may lose my job. It just feels like too much!”


Grief Defined

We may be nodding our heads in agreement reading these stories of grief, anticipating loss and experiencing loss. What then, is grief?  Grief can feel like that gut punch when that person, that place, that thing is no longer there.  It is the painful adjustment we experience as we adapt to the loss of people, routines, jobs.  It encompasses thoughts, feelings and behaviors while we seek to find our way.


There is nothing wrong with us when we grieve. Grief is a natural and normal process of adapting and adjusting to loss.  Grief is unique, individual and culturally based.  Grief is a “type of stress reaction – a set of highly personal and subjective responses that individuals experience in connection with real, perceived or anticipated losses.  It includes cognitive, spiritual, behavioral and physiological responses.  Grief may occur with any type of loss situation whether it’s physical or tangible – such as death, significant injury, or loss of property or symbolic and intangible such as the loss of a dream.”(Handbook of Thanatology, 3rd Ed, 2021)


The good news is that for most of us, grief is not overwhelming or unending. Reactions to grief help us to adapt and adjust so we can continue to live productive lives.  We may hold on to a bit of the sadness, and we are able to keep on living and loving those still present around us.


For more grief resources, visit our Grief Support Page.



Bonanno, George A, The Other Side of Sadness: What the New Science of Bereavement Tells Us About Life After Loss, Perseus Books Group, 2010.


Handbook of Thanatology, 3rd Edition, edited by Heather L. Servaty-Seib and Helen Stanton Chappel, Association for Death Education and Counseling, 2021, pp. 235-236.

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