Counseling Services

Grief and Loss

Loss of a family member, close friend, or a beloved pet is one of the most challenging realities we face in life, and the resulting grief can feel overwhelming at times. We may experience shock, confusion, denial, sadness, depression, anger, fear, guilt, loneliness, and many other powerful emotions, and we may also feel numb or shut down.

Some people experience grief as an emotional wave that comes and goes, with varying intensity, for a period of time from weeks to months. Eventually, once the loss has been accepted and the pain of it fully experienced, the grieving individual adjusts and reinvests in life. For others, grief seems to take up residence in their lives and refuses to leave. When this happens, functioning normally from day to day can become extremely difficult, and grieving begins to complicate living.

While there is no timeline or exact progression of the stages involved in grieving, it can be helpful to consider your response to major loss from a couple of different perspectives:

  • One perspective requires taking a small step back and asking yourself, “Am I actively doing something to heal, or am a passively waiting for the pain to go away?”. Even a small step in the direction of a supportive person or group can be enough to set the course for a natural mourning process.
  • Another perspective that has emerged from the work of grief counselors is called T.E.A.R. (like tears in our eyes). T.E.A.R. involves thinking about grieving as a set of four tasks:

T = To accept the reality of the loss
E = Experience the pain of the loss
A = Adjust to the new environment without the lost person
R = Reinvest in the new reality

(Based upon J.W. Worden’s tasks of mourning, 1991.)

As you adjust to new world without your loved one in it, you will likely find yourself naturally embracing both the love and the loss you have known in relationship to that being. In the meantime, be patient, take care of your health and well-being, and reach out to others, including qualified counselors who are trained to help people cope with grief, increase resilience, and improve their lives. To make an appointment at Counseling Services, call (808) 932-7465.


  • Actively Moving Forward A website full of resources by a non-profit dedicated to supporting college students who are grieving the illness or death of a loved one.
  • Hawaiʻi Care Choices Grief and Bereavement Services are free to the Hilo community; this includes Adult Grief Support Classes, Drop-in Support Group, and Survivors of Suicide Support Group.