What is Grief?

Grief is the experience of losing someone or something of significance. Some examples of grief include

  • Death of spouse
  • Death of child
  • Death of parent
  • Death of sibling
  • Death of family member
  • Death of close friend
  • Death of pet
  • Miscarriage
  • Regretful/Coerced abortion
  • Moving to new state/country
  • Divorce
  • Divorce of parents
  • Loss of job
  • Loss of community
  • Loss due to injury/illness
  • Loss of home/property
  • Loss of dream

Symptoms of Grief

Grief hurts. Loss impacts every part of us. Our emotional health, physical health, psychological health, and more all suffer.






Feelings of helplessness



Emancipation, relief



Muscle tension, especially in the chest and throat

Hollowness in stomach

Shortness of breath

Muscle weakness

Dry mouth

Sleep disturbances

Eating disturbances




Shock, disbelief

Difficulty concentrating

Depersonalization, nothing seems real





Vivid dreams



Loss of meaning or a sense of purpose

Doubting or questioning spiritual beliefs

Re-thinking beliefs about life, death, and religion

Feelings of abandonment and/or anger

Feelings of comfort and/or peace

Existential distress


Social withdrawal



Loss of motivation

Calling out for what was lost

Avoiding reminders of the loss

Visiting or carrying objects as reminders of the loss

Types of Grief

Traumatic Grief

Accompanies loss that is unexpected and/or violent and can trigger trauma symptoms in addition to the mourning process

Complicated Grief

Includes grief that feels so intense and debilitating that it’s challenging to function in daily life, even after the early period of the loss

Disenfranchised Grief

Can occur when someone feels oppressed, discriminated against, or otherwise invalidated for their loss

Anticipatory Grief

Can happen when someone faces a serious medical condition or life-threatening illness and the emotions of sadness, fear, or loneliness start emerging before the loss itself

Collective Grief

Refers to shared, communal suffering experienced by many members of a community or society in response to events such as natural disasters, wars, terrorist attacks, or the death of a public figure

Inhibited Grief

Can happen when someone focuses their attention on other responsibilities rather than their feelings

Delayed Grief

May emerge from inhibited grief, but it can also occur when an experience triggers grief over a loss from a previous developmental stage or season of life

There is no grief like the grief that does not speak.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The Difference Between Grief & Depression

Grief can look a lot like depression. Grief and depression can coexist, and you may even develop depression following prolonged grief. However, grief is the result of loss, and the intensity of it tends to decrease over time. Grief can also occur in waves that are triggered by thoughts and reminders of the loss. On the other hand, depression involves a general sense of feelings of worthlessness and lack of joy, and it tends to be more persistent and pervasive.

Is there a timeline for grief?

There is no one “right” way to grieve. Therapists will often keep in mind a variety of grief models to help facilitate your experience of grief. However, everyone’s grief process and grief timeline will look different.

Many stage and phase models of grief have been developed. They can be helpful to normalize your experience of grief. It’s reassuring to know that what you’re feeling is normal, no matter how extreme it may feel to you. However, if you focus on the stages or phases too much, you may begin to think you are doing grief “wrong.”

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s stages are one of the most well-known examples of a phase model of grief. She identified stages of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. However, you won’t progress through these stages in order, you may actually cycle through them several times, and you may not even experience all of them.


Another type of mourning process involves a task model developed by J. W. Worden. Whereas a phase model can imply having to passively wait and pass through each phase until you feel better, a task model implies the individual ability to actively influence the grieving process. J. W. Worden’s four tasks, or therapy goals, for mourning the loss of a loved one are -

  1. To accept the reality of loss
  2. To work through the pain of grief
  3. To adjust to life without the deceased
  4. To maintain a connection to the deceased

In actuality, the grief process holds both passive phases and active tasks. There will be times when all you can do is feel whatever emotions are coming up for you, no matter how strong or confusing or painful. Other times, there will be actions or steps you can take to begin the process of healing.

As a result, Margaret Stroebe and Hank Schut focused on the dual experience of loss-oriented activities and restoration-oriented activities. They recognized that we can cycle back and forth between these roles.

Loss-oriented activities include:



Cxperiencing sadness, denial, or anger

Dwelling on the circumstances of the death

Avoiding restoration activities

Restoration-oriented activities include:

Adapting to a new role

Managing changes in routine

Developing new ways of connecting with family and friends

Cultivating a new way of life

No matter what your grief process is, the only way out of grief is to go through it.

How Grief Therapy Can Help

Grief therapy has many benefits. It can help you navigate one of the hardest parts of your life. It can help you grow stronger even as you face devastating loss. While grief therapy can help anyone, it is especially important for those whose grief is overwhelmingly intense, lasts more than a year, interferes with daily activities, causes feelings of guilt or depression, and/or strains current relationships. Grief therapy can give you the permission, time and space to grieve. If trauma is involved, a therapist can help you process through the effects of trauma while you grieve.

Begin Grief Therapy in Nashville

Willow Counseling offers individual therapy for grief, loss and bereavement. Individual therapy sessions for grief are held weekly or biweekly and last 45 or 60 minutes. If you live in the Nashville area and want support as you grieve, we are here to help. To begin individual counseling for grief, follow these three steps:

  1. Contact our counseling office or call 615-235-3508 to schedule a free 30 minute consultation
  2. Speak to one of our grief therapists about which type of grief therapy is best for you
  3. Begin therapy for grief and find strength to move forward with your life!


Another photo of a willow leaf. Our Nashville therapists offer anxiety treatment for symptoms of anxiety. Willow Counseling also offers trauma therapy, treatment for depression, and help for compassion fatigue in Nashville.

Schedule a free 30-minute consultation to speak with a grief therapist.

A willow branch illustrating the growth Nashville residents can get from anxiety treatment for panic attacks at Willow Counseling. Willow Counseling also offers trauma therapy, treatment for depression, and help for compassion fatigue in Nashville.

Learn more about our grief therapists and how they can help you.

Willow Leaf. Anxiety treatment with a therapist in Nashville can help you grow. Willow Counseling also offers trauma therapy, treatment for depression, and help for compassion fatigue in Nashville.

Begin individual therapy for grief at Willow Counseling. Schedule an appointment to meet with one of our compassionate counselors.

Other Services Offered at Willow Counseling

Counseling for grief often involves multiple approaches towards healing. Willow Counseling in Nashville offers therapy for anxiety and therapy for depression. We also offer group therapy services. Contact our office to learn more. You don't have to stay stuck. Willow Counseling can help you find healing and be rooted, be strong and be free from the things that have held you back.