Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Grief and loss

3-minute read

Grief is the natural emotional response to the loss of someone close, such as a family member or friend. Grief can also occur after a serious illness, a divorce or other significant losses.

What are grief and loss?

Grief often involves intense sadness, and sometimes feelings of shock, numbness or even denial and anger. For most people, healing occurs with time.

Grief is a process or journey that affects everyone differently. It can be exhausting and emotionally draining, making it hard to do simple things or even leave the house. Some people cope by becoming more active.

Immediately after a death, those left behind often feel shocked, numb and in denial, particularly if the death was unexpected. When they are able to start to understand the reality of death, they can experience intense sadness, emptiness or loneliness, and sometimes anger or guilt.

The feelings can be painful, constant or overwhelming. Grief can come in waves, seeming to fade away for a while and then return again. But over time, the feelings gradually subside.

Grief has no set pattern. It is expressed differently across different cultures. Some people like to be expressive and public with their emotions, while others like to keep grief private.

Most people find the grief lessens with time. They may always carry sadness and miss the person who has died, but are able to find meaning and experience pleasure again. Some people even find new wisdom and strength after experiences of loss.

Types of grief and loss

Grief is usually described in relation to the death of a loved one, but other types of major loss can also lead to feelings of grief. The more significant a loss, the more intense grief may be.

People may feel grief over:

  • the death of a loved one – grief can be particularly severe following the death of an infant or child, or a suicide
  • divorce or separation
  • work changes – unemployment, retirement, retrenchment
  • the diagnosis of a terminal illness
  • the loss of good health due to accident or disability
  • miscarriage or infertility
  • having a child with a disability, a terminal illness, a mental illness or a substance abuse problem
  • moving away or separation from family or friends
  • having an ‘empty nest’ when children leave home

For more help and information

If you need someone to talk to, or want to find out more, these organisations can help you:

  • Lifeline (anyone having a personal crisis) - call 13 11 14 or chat online
  • beyondblue (24/7 support and advice) - call 1300 22 4636 or chat online
  • Kids Helpline (ages 5-25) - call 1800 55 1800

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: February 2018

Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Grief & Loss - The Trauma and Grief Network (TGN)

When a loved one dies, the grief and feeling of loss can turn your world upside down. Often we feel as though our lives have been uprooted and that we are unable to cope with day to day life. Understanding and supporting children and teens during this time can be difficult. It is important during

Read more on Australian Child and Adolescent Trauma, Loss and Grief Network (ACATLGN) website

How children deal with grief and loss

Young children experience grief, loss and trauma in different ways, often depending on their age and circumstances. Learn here how to help them cope.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

What is Loss and Grief?

Feelings of loss and grief can occur after losing someone or something that you care about.

Read more on Lifeline website

Loss and grief

Adjusting to parenthood, postnatal anxiety and depression support

Read more on Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia (PANDA) website

Migrant and refugee mental health

The diversity of cultures, religious beliefs and languages spoken amongst Western Australians continues to increase. The processes of resettlement which migrants and refugees undergo can place their mental health at risk. Grief, loss and continuing anxiety over family and friends left behind can make it difficult to establish a new life.

Read more on WA Health website

Loss & Grief

Loss and Grief Feelings of loss and grief can be experienced after we lose someone or something we care about like; the death of a loved one; loss of a relationship; loss of a pet; loss of a job; a change to your way of life; or loss of important possessions

Read more on Lifeline website

Loss and grief

Loss and grief is a normal aspect of pregnancy yet it is not often talked about. Holding a sense of loss and grief alongside joy can feel confusing.

Read more on Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia (PANDA) website

Grief and Loss

What can help you and others cope with grief and loss? Find resources and practical tips in palliAGED.

Read more on palliAGED website

Tool kit Coping with sorrow, loss and grief

A self-help resource to help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people trying to cope with sorrow, loss and grief

Read more on Lifeline website

Grief and loss

While the signs and symptoms of grief and loss are similar to depression, its important to recognise the differences so people can receive the most appropriate help.

Read more on Beyond Blue website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo