Grief is the natural response to the loss of something or someone important to you.

It is how your whole self responds to and copes with loss. It can include emotions, thoughts, physical sensations (heartache is real), and changes in the way you think. Grief and coping with loss is something everyone inevitably experiences eventually and it is completely unique to individuals and each situation. No two individual experiences of coping with grief are the same.

Understanding Loss

Grief is often related to a death, but not always. People grieve when:

  • losing their health
  • changing relationships
  • moving to a different home
  • experiencing trauma
  • ending an era of life
  • changing routine

There are no rules about what is or is not okay to grieve.


When it comes to coping with grief and loss, each person’s response is unique; it can sometimes feel unnatural or even awkward at times. There is no right or wrong way to cope with loss and no definition of what is and is not okay to grieve or feel like you have lost. We have grief and loss lesson plans within these handouts that will help you reflect on how YOU are currently grieving.

  • Teen Guide to Grief & Loss

    When it comes to grief, each person's response is unique. It can sometimes feel unnatural or even awkward at times. There is no right or wrong way to grieve and no definition of what is and is not okay to grieve.

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  • States of Reflection

    By exploring personal experiences, emotions, and thoughts, users can gain insight into their actions and beliefs, fostering personal growth and development. Whether used for journaling, therapy, or self-improvement, this resource empowers individuals to deepen their understanding of themselves and their journey.

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Understanding Your Feelings

Understanding your feelings in general can be difficult, but even more so when you’re coping with grief and loss. Use this Feelings Wheel to help better understand and name your feelings as they come and go. This wheel is just a starting point — you may feel things beyond what is listed below.

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Caring for Yourself & Others

Getting information about coping with grief and loss can help you to understand your responses and journey. Just as each person’s experience of grief is unique, so are the things that help. Here is a list of things that many people find important to do or to remember as part of the process.

  • Be gentle and patient with yourself.
  • Do what you can to keep some normal routine for health and social contact. It’s particularly important to try to maintain sleep routines, good nutrition, and exercise. You can find stretches here that may help, and recipes from Allina Health.
  • Connect with others. Grief support may come from a variety of sources, such as family, friends, loss groups or professional counseling. It may be helpful to connect with people who are grieving the same loss or who have had a similar experience. It’s okay to decide to limit who you’re connecting with and how. It’s also important to do things that do not make your suffering worse.
  • Take the time you need. Despite what you may hear about “getting over it” or “the first year,” there are no timelines for coping with grief. It takes as long as it takes. Your grief journey will often take longer than you or other people expect. You may feel pressure to feel better than you are by now, whenever this is. It’s also possible that you’ll move on in ways that seem too soon. Don’t let personal judgments surrounding how you cope with loss get in the way of your healing process.
  • Find rituals and activities that support your journey. Different people and cultures honor loss in different ways. Often that includes coming together to reminisce, celebrate, and support one another. This has become difficult in the time of COVID-19 when gatherings pose significant health risks. Alternatives to group or public memorializing include online gatherings, written remembrances, musical dedications that can be shared, and public markers such as engraved stones or works of art. There are also a number of personal and private rituals that can be done anywhere at any time.


Are you looking for a way to channel your emotions? Try one of these activities.

  • Heartbreak Pot

    When we experience a significant loss or grief, it sometimes feel like pieces of us are broken or that we fall apart. This activity honors those feelings that accompany grief while also reminding us of our many sources of support. Do this activity with friends, as a family or on your own.

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  • Scream Box

    When done correctly, yelling or screaming can be an effective way to release built up emotions. The scream box is a way to vent these emotions in a safe space into a container personalized by you.

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Types of Loss & Grief

Understanding the various types of loss and grief can help individuals recognize and validate their emotions during challenging times. Loss extends far beyond the death of a loved one; it encompasses a spectrum of experiences that can evoke profound feelings of grief. In this section, we explore different forms of loss, ranging from the loss of a relationship or a pet to more abstract losses such as loss of identity or dreams. By acknowledging the diverse nature of loss, we aim to provide a comprehensive framework for navigating grief and finding solace in the midst of life's transitions.

  • Ambiguous Loss

    This happens when there is not clear closure on a situation. People who experience ambiguouslossoften feel like they are searching for answers or understanding of why something happened. For this reason, ambiguous loss can be especially confusing, and learning tocope with griefcan be difficult. Examples ofambiguouslosscan include separation of a family through divorce or immigration, seeing and relating to suffering or death through news or social media, thelossthat happens when a family member or friend experiences addiction or mental illness, and natural or human-inflicted disasters thataffectwhole communities.

  • Suicide

    Suicide is different from any other type of loss. Usually the death of someone from suicide has an intense and long-lasting impact. When someone—especially a young person—dies from suicide, friends and loved ones struggle with complex social, emotional and cultural issues that can make the grief overwhelming and isolating. In a community, there may be concerns about suicide emulation. A suicide typically changes and challenges the personal relationships, spiritual beliefs, memories, ability to concentrate, and physical health of the people affected. As with all grief, if you have lost someone in your life to suicide, it is extremely important to acknowledge it and find ways to heal.

  • Cumulative grief

    Grieving is not something that has a clear beginning and end. When people experience multiple losses or traumas, especially in a short period, feelings can easily get tangled up and that makes it harder to deal with each loss individually. Cumulative grief can be overwhelming.

  • Anticipatory grief

    Sometimes we know a loss is coming and there’s nothing we can do to stop it, such as when someone is terminally ill or when a scheduled end to something is near. Knowing a change is coming is an opportunity to gradually prepare, say goodbyes, and begin to process the reality of what is coming. It can also lead to guilt, anxiety, and feelings of helplessness.

The Grieving Process

The labyrinth represents the journey through grief.

It looks like a maze, but is actually something different. In a labyrinth, there are no dead ends or wrong turns. Everything is connected in a labyrinth, though the path is not straight or obvious.

Walking a labyrinth involves a journey to the center and back out again. The only way through is forward, with many turns and going back and forth over what seems like the same territory. The same thing can be said about grief. When we’ve lost someone or something deeply important to us, we have no choice but to journey to the center of our grief and then slowly return to a new normal in the world.

Grief journeys will reflect personal style, the type of loss, internal and social resources, and past experiences. In any journey through grief, there will likely be unexpected turns and insights, as well as some predictable phases such as shock, denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.