Our Grace Counselling grief counsellors put these resources together, as most of them have all walked this journey of grief, some due to tragic events.
Their heart is to inform you that you are not alone and there are people who understand and care.
There is care support available in a number of ways:
- GriefShare | They have support groups all around the country. You will be able to find resources there as well.
- Online or In-Person Counselling | There are a number of our volunteer lay counsellors who specialise in grief counselling. You can mail firstname.lastname@example.org to start this process.
- The Grace Grief Course runs annually at Grace Counselling - click here to be notifie of the next upcoming course.
Scriptures around grieving
Psalm 34:18 The LORD is close to the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
John 16:22 “Jesus said, “Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.”
Luke 6:21 “Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.”
Lamentations 3:32-33 “Though God brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men.”
Psalm 30:2 “O LORD my God, I called to you for help and you healed me.”
Jeremiah 31:13 “I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow.”
Psalm 30:5 “…weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.”
Psalm 147:3 “He heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds.”
Isaiah 66:13 “As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you,” says the Lord.”
Genesis 28:15 “I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you."
Isaiah 42:16 “I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.”
Psalm 10:14 “But you, O God, do see trouble and grief; you consider it to take it in hand. The victim commits himself to you; you are the helper of the fatherless.”
Psalm 9:9 “The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.”
Psalm 72:12 “For he will deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no one to help.”
1 John 5:14 “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.”
Psalm 40:1-3 “I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.”
Psalm 116:5-6 “The LORD is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion. The LORD protects the simple-hearted; when I was in great need, he saved me.”
What are grief and loss?
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.
Grief often involves intense sadness, and sometimes feelings of shock and numbness, or even denial and anger. For most people, the intensity of grief eases over time and the episodes of grief become less frequent.
Grief is a process or journey that affects everyone differently. It can be exhausting and emotionally draining. This can make it hard to do simple things or even leave the house. Some people cope by becoming more active.
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 their feelings private.
Most people find that grief lessens with time. A person who loses a loved one may always carry sadness and miss the person who has died, but they are able to find meaning and experience pleasure again. Some people even find new wisdom and strength after experiences of loss.
Are there different 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
- the loss of a beloved pet
- giving up something that mattered
- work changes — for example, unemployment, retirement or retrenchment
- the diagnosis of a terminal illness
- the loss of good health because of an illness, 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
What are the effects of grief?
A person may have intense feelings of grief. This can feel overwhelming, making it seem hard or even impossible to think about anything else. For some people, these feelings or thoughts may be so difficult to deal with that they push them down or mask them, either all or some of the time.
The effects of grief can often resemble depression, and some people do develop depression following a significant loss. If you are dealing with a major loss and finding it difficult to cope, see your doctor.
Immediately after a death, those left behind often feel shocked, numb and in denial, particularly if the death was unexpected.
When they begin to understand the reality of death, they can feel intensely sad, empty or lonely, and sometimes angry or guilty.
The feelings can be painful, constant or overwhelming. Grief can come in waves, seeming to fade away for a while before returning. But over time, the feelings gradually subside.
Everybody reacts to grief differently.
Common feelings include:
- numbness, a sense of unreality
People might feel or act differently to usual when they are grieving. They might have difficulty concentrating, withdraw and not enjoy their usual activities. They may drink, smoke or use drugs. They may also have thoughts of hurting themselves or that they can’t go on.
Grief can be exhausting, and this may weaken the immune system. This makes people prone to colds and other illness. Grief can affect the appetite and lead to changes in weight. It can affect sleep and leave people feeling very tired. It can also lead to stomach aches, headaches and body aches.
Some people may have dreams about their loved one in which they feel their presence or hear their voice. People who are grieving often search for meaning and examine their spiritual beliefs.
Some people have positive experiences following grief and loss, such as a new sense of wisdom, maturity and meaning in life.
Complicated grief and depression
In some people, grief can be prolonged or more intense. This may interfere with their ability to cope with everyday life. This may be more likely if the loss was particularly traumatic, such as a suicide or death of a child.
Prolonged grief (also referred to as complex or complicated grief) is a persistent form of intense grief where people find it very difficult to live with the loss. Instead of gradually thinking more positively, thoughts may become stuck in a dark, sorrowful place. Some people may describe this time as being emotionally paralysed and unable to think past the grief and loss. They may feel very lost and alone. In this state, it is common to:
- feel confused
- feel a sense of overwhelming sadness
- have more extreme thoughts and behaviours, which may or may not be linked to the experience
- have an ongoing longing for the past
- Someone with prolonged grief may have a fixed preoccupation with thoughts and memories of the person who died, making the future seem empty and hopeless.
When should I seek help for my grief?
If you have persistent feelings of sadness and despair, and are unable to experience happiness, you may be experiencing depression. If your feelings are getting in the way of your everyday life, then it’s important to seek help.
For some people, grief might not lessen even after time passes. The grief can significantly disrupt their life, affecting jobs, relationships and how they interact in the community.
You may need to seek help if you:
- feel like grief makes it very difficult to do anything
- have difficulty socialising
- have difficulty sleeping
- change the way you eat (lose your appetite or overeat)
- experience intense and ongoing emotions such as anger, sadness, numbness, anxiety, depression, despair, emptiness and/or guilt
- have thoughts of harming yourself
How can I cope with grief?
If you experience grief or loss, you may always feel some sadness and miss a person once they are gone, but the painful, intense feelings should gradually subside. It eventually becomes easier to deal with life.
Allow yourself to grieve
It is natural to cry. Many people find crying a relief. Exploring and expressing emotions can be a part of grief. Listening to music or writing can help. Time spent alone can allow you to connect with your emotions.
Live one day at a time
Set a regular daily routine and do something special for yourself every day. Try to go for a walk, eat healthily, meditate and relax. It’s a good idea to avoid making any major decisions for a year after the death of someone you love.
Talking to your doctor, people at a support group or a relative or friend you trust can be a big help.
It’s important to spend time with supportive people. Accept offers of help, talk about your loved one, or simply spend time with others.
Create positive memories
Honour the life of the person who has died. Collect photos or keepsakes, write a journal, write a letter to the person who died, or share stories and rituals with others. These can all help to create meaning after loss.
Look after your health
Get some regular exercise and eat healthy food, and make sure you have enough sleep. Avoid recreational drugs and drink alcohol sensibly.
Birthdays, anniversaries or holidays can trigger intense feelings of grief. It may help to mark these occasions with a simple ceremony like lighting a candle, playing music or gathering with family.
How can I support a grieving loved one?
Get in touch and be available to spend time together. Respect that your friend may need to cry, hug, talk, be silent or be alone.
It can be difficult to know what to say, particularly if you have not experienced grief before. There may be no words that can really help but listening can be a great support. Don’t be afraid to talk about the person who has died — the person you are supporting may want to hear their name. Try to avoid giving advice or using clichés.
Do something together
Spend some time doing ordinary and positive things together, like watching a movie, going for a walk or having a meal.
Cooking meals or looking after children can be a great gift to people dealing with grief.
Grief may last for a long time. Birthdays and anniversaries may be difficult for a bereaved person, so calling them on that day can let them know you haven’t forgotten.
Other questions you might have
How long does grief last?
Every person grieves differently and there is no set timeframe for how long grief may last. Some people may mourn for 6 months, others for several years. There are many factors involved in how long grief may last. It is important to give yourself time to grieve and not feel rushed to ‘move on’ before you are ready.
How do I move on?
The term ‘moving on’ can be unhelpful, because as life moves forward you need to move with it. As each day goes by you are moving forward, but the phrase moving on can feel as though you need to get over the passing of a loved one. It’s important to remember that moving on does not mean forgetting but learning how to live without that person in your life. Moving on doesn’t mean that your grief will end, but that you will learn to live with it.
BOOKS AND RESOURCES
Useful contacts and resources:
- LifeLine +27 31 312 2323
- SADAG 24-hour toll-free counselling 0800 456 789
- SADAG Suicide Crisis Line 0800567567
- Dr Neil Anderson, “Finding Hope Again.”
- Paul Tournier, “Creative Suffering.”
- Norman H Wright, “Recovering from the Losses of Life.”
- Harry & Cheryl Salem, “From Grief to Glory – recovering life after loss.” (This couple share their journey of healing after the loss of their daughter.)
- Helena Olivier, “Stories of Real Hope.” (Short stories from people in our community who can give us hope.)
- Nola Shaw, “The Many Faces of Grief.”
- CS Lewis “A Grief Observed”
- Preston and Glenda Parrish, “Finding Hope in Times of Grief.”
- Melvin Tinker, “Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?”
- John Wallace Stephenson, “Through Tears to Triumph.”
- Don Piper, “90 Minutes In Heaven.”
- Lynn Eib, “When God Meets Grief.”
- Randy Alcorn, “If God Is Good.”
- Mary Beth Chapman, “Choosing To See.”
- Philip Yancy, “Where is God When it Hurts.”
- Philip Yancy, “Disappointment with God.”
- Solly Ozrovech, “Rainbow through Tears.”
- DVD by Rob Bell called “Matthew” – a story of how God sits ‘Shiva’ with us in times of grief.
- CD by Louie Giglio called “When life hurts most – The anchor of Hope.”