Chapter 1: An introduction to grief

How grief may affect a grieving person

The grief expert says
Dr. Chris MacKinnon, psychologist, speaks about how there is no blueprint for grief or how we respond to loss.(3:22)Video transcript
The support worker says
Karen Campbell, developmental services worker, speaks about recognizing grief when it might not be obvious.(3:22)Video transcript

When he died, my heart broke into a million little pieces. It’s back together now but the scars will always be there.

I remember leaving the hospital after they died, and I actually couldn’t believe the sun was still shining.

Ways grief may affect you

Grief can affect a person’s emotions, their thinking, and their behaviour. It can also affect how their body feels. Click on each of the boxes below to see some of the ways grief can affect the person who is experiencing it.

At times, grief may be felt as a physical sensation, such as a stomach ache, a headache, or shortness of breath.

People who are grieving may have:

  • Conflicting feelings, such as sadness and relief. 
  • Intense feelings that might be surprising or shocking
  • Unpredictable feelings - Feeling they are doing "okay" and then suddenly feeling knocked over by a wave of emotion
  • Feelings of isolation – Even if they have people who care about them close by, they might still feel lonely or isolated 

Grief can interfere with thinking, making a person more forgetful or affecting their ability to concentrate.


You may notice changes in their behaviour, such as not doing things they used to enjoy or avoiding friends.

Their beliefs may change, such as their faith or their trust in the future.

Grief often changes a person, and it changes over time. After a while it may take up less energy. This does not mean forgetting the person who died or the loss that was experienced. Memories can be carried forward. 

When grieving a death,  a person can continue to have relationships in a different way with the people who are important to them, even though they’re no longer physically present.