The World of Grief – 4 Things You Should Know

Kenny Chen, Professional Counsellor
Singapore Counselling Centre

Whether we like it or not, in life, as much as we gain happiness and joy, we will also experience sadness and loss. Loss touches each of us at some point in our lives – and grief is a normal and natural process, no matter how it affects us. Throughout life, we do not find difficulty in acquiring things, but we always struggle when we lose things or people. We simply do not know how to deal with the emotions that come with losses in our lives. When you grieve, you will likely experience complicated, confusing, and uncomfortable feelings – and in reaction to this, you may feel disconnected from your body. You may even have difficulty even with simple daily activities. In such situations, we often asked questions of ourselves like “Is this abnormal?”, “am I really going crazy?” The answer to these questions – no, the emotional experiences are normal and you are certainly not going crazy.

Some of us may have heard of the five stages of grief model, first introduced by Swiss Psychiatrist, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross – Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance.

Over the years, I certainly have my fair share of grieve, losing my grandparents to terminal illness, loss of a close relationship, etc and after years of reflection, I have come to realize that there is more to grieving than most people realize. Here are 4 things that you might want to know:

1) We grieve for more than the dead
Yes, the death of a human being is the most common source of grief, but it’s not the only one. You can experience the whole force of grief for anything that is important to you. Grief can be caused by situations, relationships, or even the death of your pet. Children may grieve a divorce, a wife may grieve the death of her husband, a teenager might grieve the ending of a relationship, or you might have received terminal medical news and are grieving your pending death. You can grieve the loss of a sentimental object like your teddy bear, the loss of a beloved place, or any kind of a relationship or a connection. Nothing has to die in order for you to go into mourning. When you grow and change as a person, pieces of you can be left behind, old bits of a personality and mannerisms that
we can ache for all the same. When something is lost and no matter what and no matter why, and it causes pain in its absence, that is grief.

2) “Just staying strong” is similar to the Denial stage of Grief
This is when you are told that despite all the terrible things that happen to you, “you must stay strong and overcome it”. The truth is that what is not said, should mean, “when you are done properly grieving, you will still be alive” “This will not kill you”. “You are stronger than you tragedy” What we didn’t realize is that oftentimes, we underestimate our own inner resilience in overcoming our setbacks, crisis, and tragedies “Don’t let your tragedy affect you”, “Just keep living regardless”. So, if you are stuck in the Denial stage of grief, you will never be able to eventually reach the Acceptance stage and you will never be able to get out of the cycle of grief. It’s perfectly okay not to be strong. That’s what people should be telling you when you are beginning to grief. It’s alright to cry, to scream, and take time away. It’s understandable to feel weak a bit, as long as you
learn to let that weakness go, otherwise, moving on will become difficult. Weakness and
vulnerability is part of the grieving process and it should be accepted.

3) There should be a Guilt stage of grief
Often when we lose something, those of us are still here, will feel a sense of guilt: some people feel left behind, some feel survivor’s guilt: in which they feel that they also should be gone or should have died in the other’s place. Some simply regret what they missed out on before the end. They regretted something they said or did, or didn’t do enough. We find a way to place blame on ourselves and put the fault on us even when it’s not. After a loss, it is often you may re-evaluate your life. It’s only natural you question things in a time of your grief. It’s normal to find regrets. We often ask ourselves, “what if I had done that…what if…., and “what if….”. The What Ifs never seems to end in our head. The more we ask, the more guilt we feel. This is only normal but you need to learn to let it go eventually. There is nothing to gain from holding on to it or ruminating on the what-ifs. Instead, turn the guilt into some learning and meaning for you for what it is still alive and

4) Acceptance is more than just admitting to a loss.
Acceptance is not about reaching an endpoint. There is no finish line to grief because grief is not a marathon, it’s a winding and confusing maze. Sometimes, you may find yourself going through a few times of the grief cycle throughout your life. Sometimes, you may grief the same thing more than once. You can regress and that’s okay. This happens sometimes when we did not properly go through the grief process the first time. We either do something to short-circuit the grief process. We’re really never done with grieving. We will grieve as long as we live. The cycle of grief goes hand in hand with the cycle of life. But there is nothing to be afraid of. In order to accept our losses, we must accept the cycle of grief for all that it is.

Grieving is a process that does not completely end: it evolves and becomes integrated into your life. What this means is that your loss, and the grief that comes with it, will become a part of who you are, how you see the world, and what you value. It can help you grow. Although I cannot promise you a time frame in which you will feel better, I can promise that the grief will not weigh on you forever if you allow yourself the opportunity to grieve. Grieving is a normal part of life, and the more we express our grief and not try to hide from it, the easier it becomes to manage. We all have experienced challenges and stressors in our lives, so we all have the ability to cope, heal and grow from life experiences. You just need time to understand what you individually need. This time of your life may be tough, but you can get through it, and not get over it.


Jose, S., & Rêve, C. (2016). Progressing through grief: Guided exercises to understand your emotions and recover from Loss. Berkeley, CA: Althea Press.