You need to grieve

Life is a terminal condition. No one gets out of this world alive.

We all experience many losses causing us to grieve, yet the topic of grief is uncomfortable and often avoided.

We grieve for many reasons; it doesn’t happen only when someone dies.  Loss of any kind may cause us to grieve:

  • a relationship
  • job
  • self-image
  • health status
  • dream, etc.

Grief can hurt like the dickens. We may pretend we’re fine, but we are not.

Through my role as a volunteer with Central Okanagan Hospice Association (COHA), and having worked as a palliative care nurse, I’ve learned the more we understand about grief, the better we can support ourselves and others.

People often feel alone when they’re grieving.

When some of the lesser known faces of grief show up, it can be frightening. Fear only adds complexity.

There’s no prescribed, predictable path of grief.  It’s not neat and tidy sequential stages. It can hit us out of the blue and take us by surprise. It doesn’t have a predictable time-line.

Grief’s unique to each person, and is experienced differently each time we experience a loss.

Grief doesn’t always show up as an emotion of sadness expressed with tears. Some faces of grief may be confusing, unless we understand them.

Grief affects us on every level: physical, mental, and emotional.


  • appetite may be poor
  • food loses its flavour and tastes like cardboard
  • digestion may be off
  • feeling like we’ve got a weight on our chest; it’s hard to breathe
  • challenges with sleep
  • feeling shaky
  • exhaustion.

Grief takes a huge amount of our energy.

As a nurse, I caution people to see their physician if symptoms persist.

When we understand how grief affects us mentally, we can relax a bit, and plan to support ourselves.


  • inability to concentrate
  • poor memory
  • impaired decision-making

When my Dad died, I couldn’t remember how to log into a computer I’d used thousands of times. I couldn’t remember how to turn my stove on.

It was scary and frustrating.

I’ve met many grieving people who’re afraid they’re losing their minds. They are not, they are grieving.

Sadness is not the only emotion felt after a loss.

Emotionally, grief may appear as:

  • nothing. We feel nothing, and remain in shock
  • feeling remote, numb and detached
  • guilt
  • blame
  • mood swings
  • anger and irritability.

I’ve seen families blown apart when grief shows up as anger. Just when we’re needing to come together and support one another, people feel isolated and alone.

When anger is felt toward a loved one who passed, guilt may arise. Guilt only complicates matters.

These lists of some of the many faces of grief are not comprehensive, but offers information that it is not a predictable, cookie-cutter process. It’s often messy and unpredictable.

Cultures in which grieving folks wear certain attire for periods of time after a loss may be on to something. Space is made for them in their process, and people understand what is happening.

Following a loss, it’s best, if possible, to put off making major decisions until the ability to think more clearly returns.

Be patient with yourself and one another.

Even people close to us can feel awkward. They don’t know what to say or do to help, so they may stay away or offer empty-feeling platitudes.  This can lead to loneliness, disappointment and fractured relationships.

Each person has different needs as they grieve. Let people know what you need and how they can help. People often want to help, but are unsure of what they can do. They can’t fix what’s happened, but they can be present.

Eat, sleep and exercise as best you can.

In this busy world with so many demands, don’t overbook yourself, and allow some flexibility in your routine. Finding a balance between being social and taking time for yourself is important.

I’m surprised when grieving people apologize for their tears. If you need to cry, then allow yourself this release with no need to apologize.

And, when those big, hard feelings come upon you like a wave, remember to breathe and be present with yourself.

Even though grief is not a sexy topic of conversation, I’m finding people want to learn about it and talk about it. I see them visibly relax as they learn they are normal in their grief.

We are truly blessed within Kelowna to have the Central Okanagan Hospice Association.

They offer programs and support for people needing support with grief. Please know help is available.


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About the Author

Corinne is first a wife, mother, and grandmother, whose eclectic background has created a rich alchemy that serves to inform her perspectives on life.

Corinne, a registered nurse with a master’s degree in Health Science, is a staff minister with the Centre for Spiritual Living Kelowna, and a hospice volunteer. She is an adjunct professor with the school of nursing  at UBC Okanagan, and is currently teaching smartUBC, a unique Mindfulness program offered at UBC, to the public. She is an invited speaker and presenter.

From diverse experience and knowledge, personally and professionally, Corinne has developed an extraordinary passion for helping people to gain a new perspective, awaken, and to recognize that we do not have to be a slave to our thoughts or to life; we are always at a point of change.

Through this column, Corinne blends her insights and research to provide food for the mind and the heart, to encourage an awakening of the power and potential within everyone.

Corinne lives in Kelowna with her husband of 41 years, and can be reached at [email protected].

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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