Skip to Content

Why Do People Grieve?

This post may contain affiliate links. That means if you click and buy, I may receive a small commission. Please read my full disclosure policy for details.

Grief is an intense sorrow after losing someone close, someone you love. Death is the first thing that comes to mind, but not the only reason for grieving. Why do people grieve? Let’s look at what causes sadness, sorrow, and grief.

Girl deep in thought on a bench

Why Do People Grieve?

Grief over a breakup or lost relationship

Couple facing opposite directkions, symbolizing a breakup

Grief is about more than just death. We have many visitors come to our grief recovery website because they are mourning the loss of a relationship due to divorce or breakup.

In some ways, grief due to a failed relationship is more complicated and can be just as devastating as a death.

When a loved one dies, there is a finality, a closure that helps set the grief process in motion. It is a hard thing, but at least the finality of death leaves you but one path… getting over the loss and returning to life without the lost one.

In a broken relationship, there is no proper closure. The beloved one is still alive, so there is no “clean break”. There may even be hope in your mind that you can reunite with your lost partner.

Your self-esteem may take a major blow, as you may feel like a failure, or guilty over the breakup. And if children are in the picture, the heartbreaking scenario is doomed to play out over and over again, as you must stay in touch for the sake of the children.

Our heart goes out to you in your loss.

Just because your loved one did not die does not mean your grief isn’t every bit as painful and heartbreaking to you. May you begin to heal by sharing the loss of your relationship with a close frined who understands.

Grief from murder – coping with violent death

Man holding his head in his hands

Murder… just the word conjures up very strong emotions. What a devastating blow a murder is to the survivors left behind! There’s a huge mountain of emotional baggage to be dragged along during your grief process, making it that much harder for you to endure.

All the conflicting emotions present during any sudden death are also there in a homicide… guilt, regret, blame, anger (more like white-hot rage).

You may find the murder itself shocking and hard to understand. And random murder is even harder to accept, where the perpetrator didn’t even know the victim… senseless and enraging. Add to all this emotional turmoil a lengthy legal process and possible media attention, and you’ve got the makings for a psychological disaster!

We also need to mention the unmentionable… cases where the killer is never found or brought to justice. This creates one of the worst types of complicated grief. You cannot complete your grieving when the perpetrator is not found and prosecuted.

Even if a trial does result, the legal process can drag on for years, and your mourning does not end until the legal process does. You may become very depressed and devastated by the whole ordeal.  You might need to attend psychotherapy in cases like this to help bring about much a needed end to your grief.

Other grievous loss

We have had numerous emails from folks grieving the loss of important things in their lives, other than a loved one. Some examples: loss of job/identity, loss of the home to tornado or fire, loss of children to divorce, loss of health/mobility, and loss of financial security.

There is perhaps no other type of grief that is less understood by outsiders. Our hope is this page will help promote understanding of grief from other losses, and provide a unique type of comfort for those in this situation.

Please read the following email from Terri, and you will perhaps better understand “Other Grievous Losses”:

I suffered the grieving process but did not lose a person. I was shocked to learn it was possible.  I was in a car accident that caused many broken bones, many surgeries and many months of recovery.

I was so angry, depressed, and stressed that I had to go to a counselor who explained it as the grieving process because I had lost my independence, freedom and my “not me” belief. I am still in recovery and would like to know I am not the only one and maybe help someone else to understand.

Have you lost something precious in your life as Terri did? Feel free to post in the comments about any loss in your life that has left you grieving.

Here are some experiences from people who shared their stories with us.

Invisible in loss

I am not sure exactly where I fit in concerning grief. It seems as though my situation is so specific that I can find no one to relate to.

I have been friends with Rob for over 15 years. As our marriages fell apart, we relied on each other to get through relatively messy divorces; we began exclusively dating about two years ago. I have known this man long enough to remember when each of his children was born. He made the decision to keep me out of his teen-aged children’s lives. As he put it, “When you will make a difference in their lives, I will introduce you.” His ex jumped right into “serious” relationships before their divorce was final, marrying again less than a year after their divorce.

The children were expected to accept the men in her life whole-heartedly, and a couple weren’t so keen on it. That being said, I understood his reason for keeping me out of their lives. However, I have come to know his children through him. He’s a great father, and the divorce was very hard on him. His kids have always been his first priority. Again, being a parent myself, I’ve always understood this.

Just when it finally seemed that we could begin moving forward, the unthinkable happened. One of his children took his own life, with no warning, no explanation. My long-time friend, my new significant other, became a familiar stranger in a split-second.

I don’t know what to do. Yes, I understand that he needs support and understanding; that is a given. Living in the wake of his devastating loss has changed me, too. I listen, I try very hard not to offer suggestions of what to do since I really have no clue of what he is going through. He lives in almost constant fear that another child will follow in the brother’s footsteps. He’s assured me that he himself wouldn’t also make that choice but has also expressed that if something happened to him that made that choice for him, that would be OK.

I do the right thing by reminding him that his other children need him, because they do, but I also want to scream “What about me?” It makes me feel so selfish. We’ve discussed that there is a difference between wanting to die and not wanting to go on, but when he goes into that pit of grief, on the days when he feels disconnected from his other children, I feel so invisible, that he doesn’t consider what the loss of him would do to me. And, I don’t feel like I have the right to tell him that.

The following thought came to my mind about a month after the death: I am GRIEVING for him, and I am grieving FOR him. I am grieving the loss of the man I have come to love. I feel stupid for even thinking I could say that directly to him, in light of his terrible loss.

I don’t know where to get support for myself. There are two people in my life that I would turn to for help like this. One of them is Rob, the other is my best friend, whose own child attempted suicide only weeks ago. Whining in light of what they are going through just seems ludicrous.

Where does the girlfriend of the man whose child took his own life go for help?

My worst regret

Hello. I wanted to share my story with everyone. I am 19 years old and in February of this year, I went to the emergency room for vomiting. I thought I had a stomach virus or food poising since my vomiting and nausea wouldn’t stop. The first thing they made me do was pee in a cup, as hospitals always do. When the doctor comes into the room, she introduces herself and asks me why I’m there. I tell her everything and she tells me what medication she’ll give me.

Just before she exits the room she says, “Just to be clear, you are aware that you’re pregnant, right?” My jaw dropped. I was speechless. I shook my head no and she confirmed it once more. When she walks out, I start tearing up. It was unbelievable.

I was told by my OBGYN that the chances of me ever getting pregnant were slim to none and that without treatment, getting pregnant was out of the picture. So I accepted it since I never really wanted kids in the future anyway. But now I was pregnant and I was so shocked and confused and overwhelmed. I didn’t know how to feel! It was almost like a miracle. I just couldn’t believe it, but something in me had a good feeling about this.

I called my boyfriend (father) that same night and let him know. He was also very surprised but didn’t say much of it. I was scared to hear what he had to say about it. Since he was 28 and much older than me, I expected him to be shocked since it wasn’t planned but also excited. But we finally talked about it in person, he wasn’t excited at all…

His take on it was that ‘it was up to me’ but he thought that an abortion was the best thing. That just crushed me. I myself wasn’t sure what I wanted to do 100%, but I didn’t want to get an abortion. In his defense, he mentioned how I was constantly getting kicked out of my parents’ house and that I didn’t have a car and how we couldn’t afford a baby or a place to live together, and that we just weren’t ready.

It doesn’t feel good to hear “I don’t want it but it’s up to you” coming from the person who’s in the situation with you. I felt so alone, I didn’t have anyone but my bias boyfriend to talk to about it with. I just kept trying to keep hope that one day he would say “yes let’s keep it” but those words never came out of his mouth. We kept the pregnancy talk to a minimum and in fact, we avoided it, which didn’t help.

I was left with this HUGE, life-changing decision to make, all on my own. My mother and I were on extremely bad terms at the time and as mentioned before, I was kicked out of my parents’ house. She has always told me that if I were to ever get pregnant, she would make me get an abortion or kick me out so either way, I wouldn’t go to her about it. So here I am, alone and stressed. I knew I had to make up my mind before it was too late. I started thinking about my future, and how I was still in school and how I didn’t have any money saved up, and how I didn’t even want children.

The more I thought about it, the more reasons I found to not go through with this pregnancy. I went from being told I wasn’t able to have kids, to getting pregnant, to contemplating abortion. I kept thinking that we could make it work but what if I went through with the pregnancy and there was no longer a “we” and we split? What if I have this baby and I ruin the father’s life? What if I’m left all alone with my baby and I’m not able to give them the life they deserve?

In March, a month after finding out, I scheduled to get the abortion. My boyfriend drove me and the car ride was long and silent. I was hoping he would stop and say “Let’s just turn around, go home and keep our baby,” but it didn’t happen. Just more silence. I felt really numb and emotionless before and after arriving at the clinic. My boyfriend kept asking me if I was okay and I would nod my head yes. But I wasn’t.

At the clinic, they made me do a urine test, then they performed an ultrasound where I found out I was 8 weeks. I tried my hardest to not look at the screen and denied the photos of the scan. I went to the counseling they offer but it was more of just consenting and signing a lot of papers. They then took me and 2 other women down to where we would wait to get the abortion done. The women were both 40+ years old, which made me feel worse.

Most of that is blurry but I had to change into a gown and put my belongings in a locker. I remember being wheel-chaired into the operation room. I started to tear up when the nurse was injecting the anesthesia. She saw my tears, caressed my hair, and told me she promised everything would be okay. I knew it was too late to back down now.

When I woke up, I felt no physical pain or had any guilt or regrets. I went about my life for about a month like nothing happened until it finally hit me… I had killed my baby. There was a human growing inside of me, a person I made, and now it was gone. I began regretting my decision and crying about it every single chance I got. I couldn’t believe what I had done, I felt like a monster. How could I kill my baby?? Who even was I?

I couldn’t function. I had dropped out of school. I ended up dying my hair a different color and cutting it real short, to try and feel like a different person because I couldn’t stand the person I was. My boyfriend and I had many fights after the abortion, and I blamed him for all of it. I told him that if he would have given me just a little support and reassurance, I would have been strong enough to keep my baby and we wouldn’t be the way we were.

But deep down I know he isn’t the only one at fault. He tells me now that he also regrets the decision and he’s sorry for handling the situation the way he did. It is now September and it’s about to be 7 months since my abortion. To this day, I cry about the death of my unborn child every single day. I’ve started seeing a therapist who has been very helpful and understands everything.

I assumed the gender and named her Anabella, as a coping and grieving technique, and I pray and apologize to her every night. I apologize for not being strong enough to own up and allow her to grow up to become a beautiful, unique individual and I let her know that if I could take it back, I would. I rather go through hard times with her by my side than live with the regret and self-hatred I do now.

I will never forget my Anabella and I know I will live with this feeling for the rest of my life. But I do hope it gets easier to cope with. I hope my story comes across someone who’s pregnant and confused with what to do. I hope they see how an abortion can damage you and scar you for the rest of your life. No matter how hard it may seem now, everything will work out in the end. God does everything for a reason and if you are given the chance to create life, you’re blessed.

I had an abortion 18 years ago and I regret it

by Narelle (Australia)

I was 21 when I had an abortion. The circumstances of my life back then did not permit me to bring a child into the world, well I felt that my child would not have the life it deserves if I was to have a baby at a young age without any financial security.

I am now childless and I regret my decision. I have always thought about my baby over the years and realize that if I had had the baby, my life would have been better and the baby would have had the life it deserved.

I just wish I had the maturity to realize that back then. I suppose 18 years of age is an important age and I wish my baby was here so I could celebrate his birthday. I have made some terrible life choices and my life went downhill after I had the abortion. It is only the last couple of years I realized that I had been grieving for 15 years for my baby. I often wonder if my baby is my guardian angel with me over the years giving me the strength to get through the hard times that I created for myself.

My child or my wife

by Casey Clifton (Payson AZ)

I know all about deceit. I am a father of 3: 2 from first love and the other 1 is from a separate relationship. I have always had sole custody of other of my oldest 2. I have had sole custody of my youngest for 3 yrs now.

I recently got married and my wife insisted I do a DNA test on the youngest. She has always had a problem with him (my 4-year-old) and I never understood why. He always had to go to bed first, wasn’t allowed in my bed while her 2 children where. It was always upsetting me and when I said something she would blow up.

I learned to keep my mouth shut. Anyways after her persistence on a DNA test, I finally gave in, to stop pressing the issue. The results came back and I am not his father. In my heart I am. My wife now wants me to give him back to his mother who literally has been found in court to be mentally unstable.

I fought for this child for years before I met my wife. I have paid child support and when I got full custody I was still paying. I fought hard for this kid. My wife only wants her 2 kids and my other 2. I love that kid but the ultimatum is her or the child.

I’m in a pickle. To make matters worse she forces me to say goodbye because I started a new job in another state while she watches other children until she follows a month later. She won’t let me talk to him cause she thinks I need to move on. When I talk about it she blows up and says I only look out for him. I don’t want to give back: I want to raise him because that’s what I’ve been doing, but it’s either her or the child: a lose lose situation for me.

My daughter broke my and my granddaughter’s hearts

by Kathy Gonzalez  (New York)

My daughter suddenly and without explanation cut me out of her life. She blocked me from contacting her through her cell phone and her home phone now requires a code to leave a message. I had just spent a week visiting and when her fiancee came home for the weekend, everything changed. We had no problems all week. We had a great time.

My granddaughter, Grace, and I are very close. My daughter and Grace lived with me until Grace was 4. She is now 6. I cut Grace’s umbilical cord and was the first person to hold her. Grace calls me her best friend and tells me all of her little girl secrets. I am devastated and Grace is heartbroken as well. I haven’t seen or spoken to her in 6 months.

I need to know what effect this sudden loss of her grandmother will have on her. I don’t think I will ever forgive my daughter or get past the hateful feelings I have for her and I don’t really care right now. I’m just worried about Grace. She knows I would never forget about her and she knows I love her with all my heart. I just really need to know how this is going to affect her.

Heartbroken mother and grandmother

by Mimi (New Jersey)

In a nutshell, my daughter and I have had a very rocky relationship for the past few years and it got worse when she came home pregnant at 17. Although my husband (her step-father) and I were upset and angry, we worked through it and welcomed our granddaughter 6 weeks ago. There have been many ups and downs throughout her pregnancy and after delivery with her mental state.

She is diagnosed with having anxiety and depression, and am convinced that she has Oppositional Defiant Disorder and bipolar disorder. She has been on medication but does not take it regularly. This past week, things came to a head after she didn’t want to follow the rules of my house and accept her punishment. We had a blowout fight and she took her daughter and left my house.

She called me crying two hours later saying that she needed to come home because the baby needed things. I let her back in and told her that we would talk in the morning. I woke up and she was gone again with the baby. I called and her cell phone was off. She later called me to talk and I gave her two options. To come home and I would continue to support them or to leave and live with her boyfriend (as she has always threatened that she would do) and have nothing. No cell phone, no money, no rides to dr. appts….nothing. She chose to leave.

The grief and pain are unbearable. Sometimes I don’t even know how I’m making it through my day as I feel that I am living outside my body. I miss both of them tremendously. My granddaughter was ripped from my arms two days ago and my heart and soul went with her. I have no idea how I will move past this. I feel totally empty.

My sister broke my heart

I introduced my sister to my best friend’s son. They were eventually married. After the marriage, she and her new husband became jealous of me and my husband. We are more financially well to do than they are. Also, they made it clear that they both hated that I was so close to the mother/mother-in-law ( my best friend). They worked hard to make her chose between me and them.

They announced that if we were invited to family events they wouldn’t come. Consequently, we were excluded. They have a baby and toddler, I am not allowed to see. I tried everything to reconcile with them. Gifts, cards, visits, offering to care for their child. They constantly make up reasons for their actions, imagined slights, etc. They behave hatefully but if I show any sign of emotion they begin accusing me of all manner of evil.

Needless to say, their relationship isn’t a good one. Unfortunately, most of the family is caught up in the BS and feels very sorry for them, in the last 3 years I have lost my relationship with my best friend and my mother.

It took three days

by Vanessa Leadbetter (Magna, Utah)

Julie was a Sable Burmese brought home by my older sister one sunny spring day. I have never loved anyone or anything as well as I loved her. A tiny cat, she would ride around on my shoulder all day. She slept on my chest every night. She was my best friend and died in my arms. I shared my life with her for 23 years. My fondest memories of her are seeing a fox up close growl at us. Watching a wild swarm of bees overhead. Her checking out the deer and the fawns pronking around her. We reading the paper on the porch, only to have a skunk walk between my legs and scare all of us. She batting my twin sisters’ curlers unexpectantly. Having the techs at the vet tells me she’s the sweetest cat they’ve ever dealt with.

It took her three days to die, I watched her. She taught me a lot about love and death and I want to thank her for being my friend. She died on July 28, and I think of her every day. If it was up to me. she’d be able to be a human this time in the physical plane. Hopefully, she greeted my Beloved Mother Ruth, and Mama and Julie are watching the Olympics together up in Heaven.

Why do people grieve?
A woman working on a sculpture
Previous
Grief Masks & Sculpture To Help You Connect With Your Soul