Is It Stress Or Is It Grief?

November 07, 20233 min read

Is It Stress Or Is It Grief?

In a recent masterclass when sharing their biggest takeaway one participant mentioned that at the company she’d been working at for 20 years she had never heard them talk about grief. Lots of talk about stress but nothing about grief. I guarantee that in the 20 years she’s been there, there has been grief. People have lost loved ones. There have been many organizational restructures. There have been times when a product, idea or initiative didn’t go the way they expected. But no talk about grief.

In our fast-paced and demanding lives, we often use the term stress to describe our emotional and psychological experiences when facing overwhelming challenges. But what if what we commonly refer to as stress is often hidden grief?

The Mask of Stress

Stress is our body's response to perceived threats or pressures. It can manifest physically and emotionally, leading to symptoms like anxiety, tension, irritability, and more. Often, we associate stress with work deadlines, financial troubles, or relationship conflicts, which indeed can be sources of stress. However, what we often overlook is that stress can also be a mask for deeper emotions, including grief.

The Connection to Grief

Grief is a normal response to loss of all kinds. We expect there to be grief after the death of a loved one but we forget that grief comes from other losses too. When we experience changes or disappointments, we may unknowingly be grieving. 

Here are some examples:

·      The loss of a job or career aspirations can lead to grief over lost opportunities and dreams.

·      The end of a relationship can bring grief over the loss of love, companionship, and the future envisioned together.

·      Health issues can bring about grief for the life we once had or the expectations we held for our well-being.


Stress as Grief in Disguise

Here's where the connection becomes apparent: when we encounter life-altering events or setbacks, our immediate response is often stress. The pressure to adapt, make decisions, or simply endure can lead to the classic symptoms of stress. But beneath the surface, we may be grieving the loss of what was or what could have been.


Recognizing Hidden Grief

Acknowledging that stress might be a form of hidden grief is essential for our emotional well-being. By understanding the underlying emotions and allowing ourselves to grieve, we can navigate these challenging times more effectively. It's not just about managing stress; it's about addressing the root of our distress. If we can name it, we can release it.


What can we do differently?

Next time you feel stressed, take a moment to reflect on the deeper emotions at play. Are you dealing with more than just stress? Could there be an underlying grief that needs acknowledgment and healing? Understanding this connection can be a transformative step towards better emotional well-being and resilience in the face of life's challenges.

Initiate conversations in the workplace where grief is acknowledged. If we want emotionally intelligent leadership and teams. Open communication can be a powerful tool for connection and create a workplace culture


Seeking Support 

If you find yourself consistently stressed and overwhelmed, it's crucial to seek support from friends, family, or mental health professionals. They can help you explore your feelings, identify any hidden grief, and develop coping strategies to navigate these emotions.


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Through her insightful teachings and thoughtfully designed programs, Suzanne offers a path guided by emotional intelligence and real life experience to address the full spectrum of the complex emotions and consequences of grief while expanding the capacity to engage fully with life post loss. Her heartfelt approach also honours the depth of loss through the invaluable practice of cherishing and expressing love for what has been lost and experienced.

Bonnie Lynn

Business Owner/Consultant


In a recent peer meeting, I shared the statistics you provided regarding the number of co-workers that are dealing with grief at any given time. We committed to not only acknowledging the grief but also to providing sustained support.

Kay McBreairty

Program Manager