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Can you get on top of Grief and Loss?

Posted by Geoff Beaty on 22 June 2021
Can you get on top of Grief and Loss?

What is the difference between sadness and grief? They are temporally and functionally quite different.

Sadness is an emotion, and like all emotions, we feel it in brief episodes. Those moments of profound sadness only last minutes at a time. Sadness leads to decreased physiological arousal, especially after crying. When less intense, the physiological slowing is thought to allow for some mental clarity that lets the loss sink in and moves us toward a recalibration process. These episodes of sadness occur more frequently and with greater intensity the closer we are to the triggering event.

While emotions last minutes, mood, another affective state, lasts hours to days and is less intense and specific in content. A sad mood can be present much of the time after a significant loss. Emotions predispose to moods and vice versa.

Grief, on the other hand, is a complex and lengthy process that moves us from a place of loss to a new place with a new equilibrium without the lost object. While sadness is about fully acknowledging the loss, the grieving process is about getting beyond it. The bigger the loss, the bigger the hole in your life and the longer the grieving process. Grief is a multi-emotional process with people often experiencing a range of emotions, such as shock, anger, and fear in addition to sadness.

As you grapple with your sense of loss, here are a few things we should all keep in mind.

A Sense of Mindful Self-awareness

As we work through our grief, a mindful self-awareness can help us identify our emotions and see them as part of the grieving process. Simply anticipating emotions can lessen the impact of them when they come. As they come on, try to name the emotion, e.g., "I am so sad," and feel the experience in the body. The sadness can be cathartic, and by focusing on the body and not the head, we can also drop the sometimes healthy, sometimes unhealthy rants and ruminations that can accompany these events. If we experience the emotions with mindful self-awareness, we can see our emotions as part of a healing, grieving process, and we will likely be able to handle them more gracefully.

Author:Geoff Beaty
Tags:NewsMind Body MedicineCancerGrief and Loss


  • The Institute for Functional Medicine
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  • American Society of Clinical Oncology
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