Open hearts. Honest conversations.

Episode 6: Grief and Loss

Valerie’s guest is John Dube who is a Senior Program Manager and Clinical Supervisor at Family Services of the North Shore. John has specialized in bereavement work for the past couple of decades, and while he acknowledges how hard this work is, he also shares the extraordinary nature of people, and how through this journey, they’ve taught him to live.

In this conversation Val and John talk about the stages of grief, John’s concept of the triple burden of grief, how friends and family can best offer support to a bereaved person, and how we can help ourselves when we experience a loss. Val and John talk about the important role of rituals such as funerals and memorials in the bereavement process, and they offer the comforting notion that every expression and individual experience of grief is normal.

We hope this episode provides comfort if you are in need of it, along with insights into this very common and often painful part of life.

Show Notes:

  • Bereavement is the term used to describe the holistic experience of loss, including the emotional, mental, physical, spiritual, and social experiences.
  • Grief is the word used to describe the emotional component of bereavement. Loss is the experience of being separated from something or someone that we love and care for.  In other words, loss is the separation, and grief is the emotional reaction to the loss.
  • Loss is a normal part of the human experience. Even though loss is a normal and expected part of life we continue to have difficulties with it because it is a painful experience, and humans are wired to avoid pain. 
  • We work very hard at avoiding pain, and the death of loved ones is not something that we can avoid. These losses bring up a lot of stuff for us, maybe the unfinished business of a conversation we didn’t finish, or actions we regret, so death brings a lot of discomfort to our lives.
  • When someone we love has died, or when we have experienced another major loss, the way we can make it less painful is to know that the pain of the loss is not going to kill us. We can talk about it to people who will just listen and witness our pain. We can think about how the pain teaches us about who we are.  It’s important for us to not feel alone with the pain of a loss.
  • The Covid-19 pandemic has brought out a lot of feelings of grief and loss. We can help ourselves and others live with these feelings by increasing the kindness we offer to others and to ourselves. 
  • It is important not to compare our grief with others’ feelings of grief. The important part is your own experience of the loss, rather than comparing it to others’ loss.
  • It is important to take the lessons of the loss, learn from them, and figure out how to move forward; not forget where we’ve been but to take those lessons and apply them to the next part of life.
  • When we are supporting someone who has experienced a loss, we can best do this by offering our kind, gentle, and non-judgmental presence. We don’t have to know the right things to say, we can simply listen without interrupting.
  • In 1969 Elisabeth Kübler-Ross developed her Five Stages of Grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.  A colleague later developed a sixth stage:  making meaning.  These stages are meant to describe the commonality of the human experience vis a vis grief and loss, but noting that this is not a linear process.
  • Grief moves us around. We have to learn who we are after a significant loss.  We are changed by the experience.
  • Some common reactions to a major loss are: an initial shock period where the body and brain are not able to process the information, there’s also a change in breathing – people have a feeling of tightness in the lungs, there are changes in eating, sleeping, and exercising patterns. There is a period of evaluation where people think about their last conversations and list their regrets with that person, along with asking themselves if they played a part in the loved one’s death (could I have done something more?  I should have done more…).
  • People also find themselves needing to be more in contact with nature or want to be home by themselves to process the experience. Others want to talk to God, and others aren’t interested in that at all.  Some people return to church if they weren’t attending for a while.  There is a period of personal reflection.
  • The most important part of the process of bereavement is not to judge our reactions to the loss. Everyone is unique in this.
  • There are three Burdens of Grief:   (1)  The loss of the person through death, (2) We are forever changed when somebody we love dies, and (3) Navigating a world that is not as sensitive or kind to people who are experiencing grief.
  • After someone has died, we develop a new type of relationship with them. The relationship exists, and it continues but it is not the same. It exists inside your heart and in your head rather than in a physical manifestation.
  • Rituals are a very important part of the bereavement experience. They are a way of taking what’s going on inside you and putting it up onto the table so you can see it, feel it, touch it, and manipulate it.  Rituals help support the grieving process.  You can not get the ritual process wrong. There are many ways to actualize our grief.
  • If we know someone who is bereaved, we can be helpful to them by being available for them to talk, and by not asking for all the details at first. We can trust that our friend or family member will tell us what they want to tell us, when they want to tell us. 
  • It is important to hear what a bereaved person is needing, not what we, as their friend or family member, are feeling.
  • The lesson of bereavement is to not leave things unsaid. If you love someone tell them.  If you have something to say, let your beloved friends and family hear it.


  • To learn more about support for Grief and Loss through Family Services of the North Shore, contact Robin Rivers at or phone at 604-988-5281 ext. 354. 
  • To access counselling services, email our intake counsellor
  • For additional support contact the BC Bereavement Helpline 604-738-9950 or toll-Free 1-877-779-2223,
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