Grief Doesn't Only Come With Experiencing Death

Loss is an inevitable part of life.

grieving woman Photodjo / Getty Images via Canva

By Niki Russo

Loss is an inevitable part of life. Often, we think grief only pertains to the death of a loved one, but that isn’t always the case.

When you google "define grief," the first definition from the Oxford Learner’s Dictionary says it is “a feeling of great sadness, especially when someone dies.” It’s not an inaccurate description, but grief does not just include death.

Grief is a complex emotional response characterized by loneliness, sadness, and a longing for what we have lost.


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We usually think grief only happens after a loved one’s death, but grief also happens when you experience other hardships in life.

As a society, we dictate that someone can only grieve after death. But grief can occur anytime.


People grieve when a relationship ends. People grieve during a significant life change. We grieve the death of a pet, unanswered questions, miscarriages, and unfulfilled dreams. Only one thing summarizes grief, and that is experiencing loss.

When did it become okay for people to comment on others’ experiences? Many people make these judgments with little hesitation. Grief is an individual experience that can vary from person to person, even when you live in the same household and experience the same loss.

Everyone deals with grief differently, and that’s okay. You don’t need to justify whatever makes you feel the deep agony of grief. It is already justified because you say so.

You are in charge of your feelings, and you can give yourself grace. Allow yourself space to work through emotions on a timeline that feels right to you.


Grief does not only include death. Grief means that, where there was once love and light, there are now feelings of pain and darkness. And that goes further than death.

When people experience death, they may think no other grief is comparable.

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When we go through our problems independently, it almost seems selfish for people to try to relate to us. After all, if they have not experienced a loss in the same capacity as you, how can they compare?

As a society, we learned to see the worst in one another and focus on the negative. Because of that, sometimes all we see is a selfish person trying to make your problems about them. But in reality, they are trying so hard to connect their pain to your pain.


What if we tried to look at things from another perspective? Instead of seeing selfishness, what if we choose to see someone being brave? What if, instead of seeing this as a competition, we embraced their vulnerability as an act of love? What if we see it as them giving it their best to try to make you feel less alone?

The next time someone tells you they are grieving and it isn’t necessarily about death, let them.

Even though their problems may not directly align with your definition of grief, that doesn’t make it less painful or real to them. Give them a chance to share their life experiences with you; you may be surprised by how much common ground you’ll find.


In the end, you will find that grief is often due to a traumatic event that happened to someone. Every one of us who is suffering is just trying to find little pockets of peace where we can.

The world we live in is filled with so much heartache and agony. If we learn to grieve with each other instead of comparing problems, we will all be that much better for it.

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Niki Russo is a writer, teacher, and frequent contributor to Unwritten and Thought Catalog. She writes about mental health, education, and the stigma of grief.