Grief and Loss

Loss is an inevitable part of life and grief is natural for healing. There are many reasons for grief, including losing a loved one, declining health or letting go of a long-held dream.

Dealing with a significant loss can be one of the most challenging times in a person's life. College students can experience many failures, from the death of a loved one to the loss of a significant relationship. Other losses can occur as students experience change.

Symptoms and tips

Loss of job

Grief is usually associated with the death of a loved one, but there are other areas of life in which loss results in grief that is just as real. One of these is being experienced more and more often due to the current trend of companies to "down-size."

The majority of today's working population is likely to experience at least one job loss. For many people today, there are two significant phases of job loss. It was common for firings to be swift and merciless in past years.

Still, more and more companies are now providing a transition period, beginning with advance notification of job termination and ending with the actual job loss. Unfortunately, the "terminated" phase begins with the actual job loss and is still the only phase for many people.

Even though the lessened impact of actual unemployment by a period of preparation, the grief process is still different for this phase. Many emotions carry over, but grief is more like losing a loved one. A way of life has ended, along with the security it provided.

Symptoms and tips

Loss of pet

Given the intense bond, most of us share with our animals, it's natural to feel devastated by feelings of grief and sadness when a pet dies.

While some people may not understand the depth of feeling you had for your pet, you should never feel guilty or ashamed about grieving for an animal friend. Instead, use these healthy ways to cope with the loss, comfort yourself and others and begin the process of moving on.

Depending on your animal's involvement in your life, grief can get complicated. For example, suppose your pet was a working dog or a helper animal such as a guide dog. You'll not only grieve the loss of a companion but a coworker and even your independence.

If you cared for your pet through a protracted illness, you likely grew to love them even more. If you lived alone and the pet was your only companion, coming to terms with this loss can be even more challenging. Suppose you were unable to afford expensive veterinary treatment to prolong the life of your pet. In that case, you may even feel a profound sense of guilt.

More information and tips

Traumatic loss and grief

Tragic events can be much more challenging to recover from quickly or at all, depending on the nature of the tragedy.

More information and tips

Post-traumatic stress disorder

Only after a person feels safe and stabilized will they process their experience.

Normal stress reactions and responses to a traumatic event can typically last 30 days or less. If they continue, then they may need to seek professional help.

  • Hyper-arousal: hyper-vigilant behavior, heightened startle response, being easily triggered by things that remind a person of the trauma, irritability and repeating behaviors that are associated with the most disturbing aspect of the trauma. Often these behaviors continue even if the person is now safe, but they don't perceive that they are safe yet.
  • Intrusive thoughts and images: People often share that they re-experience the event (Sleep disturbances, nightmares, intrusive thoughts, memories or disturbing images), which is shared with PTSD.
  • Shattered assumptions: Four fundamental beliefs are shattered: "I am safe," "I am in control," "Bad things happen to others but not to me," and "I am worthy, and my life has meaning." Instead, survivors may feel they are not safe, not in control and bad things can happen to them.
  • Numbing and Avoidance: We want to avoid anything that reminds us of the trauma. We may avert thoughts, emotions or places connected with the event.

Symptoms of traumatic stress

  • Physical: fatigue, exhaustion, sleep disturbances, hyper-arousal, appetite changes, digestive issues, headaches, nausea, muscles aches.
  • Emotional: fear and guilt, numbness, anxiety, depression, anger, helplessness, irritability, frustration.
  • Behavioral: withdrawal, outbursts, hyper-alert, change in activity, suspicion, startle reaction increases.
  • Cognitive: flashbacks, difficulty with problem-solving, change in alertness, amnesia/confusion, decreased concentration, difficulty making decisions, memory disturbances.

Source: Career Success Partners; HelpGuide; NYU Child Study Center, NY, NY; Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension Service;  Townsen University