What is grief?


Grief is a natural response to losing something meaningful to you.  You can feel grief for many different reasons.  Some of these reasons may include the loss of a loved one, the loss of a job, leaving a home behind, ending a relationship, or losing a meaningful item.  There are stages of grief but not everyone experiences grief the same.


What are the stages of grief?


Grief has five stages:


Denial: This is often the first stage of grief when the loss has just occurred.  This may have you feeling emotionless or in a state of shock. It is devastating and often hard to understand that something that was so dear to you is here one day and gone the next. Your emotions are overwhelming so you enter a state of denial for self preservation.

Anger: When you realize that you have truly lost, anger sets in.  This may also having you feeling frustrated, alone, helpless, and irritable. This anger could appear at any time, towards anyone, and for any reason.  You may even feel angry at your loved one.

Bargaining: When you starting thinking about how things could have gone differently or things that could have been done, the “what ifs”, this is the bargaining stage. This may happen before a loved one passes also if they are very sick, for example.  You may try and make a deal to prevent the loss or to try and make it right.

Depression: Reality has truly set in and so has the overwhelming sadness. This may include sleeplessness, a loss of appetite, irritability, regret, loneliness, and overwhelm.

Acceptance: This is the final stage of grief. This is the hardest stage for people to get to, especially with the loss of a loved one.  In this stage you accept that you have lost and that the loss cannot be changed. Hopefully, at this stage you start to thinking about how you will move forward and carry on.


Frequently Asked Questions


How do the stages of grief work?

Some stages may be longer or shorter than others, while some have a harder time moving through all the stages.  You may even experience one stage, move to another, and then back again.  A sight of a familiar coffee shop or the smell of a certain fragrance may trigger a phase even if you have already experienced it.  There is also no normal time period for the stages, everyone is different.

What is anticipatory grief?

Anticipatory grief is a type of grief we go through when we think a loved one might die. This type of grief is difficult because our loved one is still with us, however, we do not know for how long.  You want to treasure the time you have with them, yet prepare for the possible time when you are not.  You may even experience the stages of grief before a person dies.

Can I just avoid grieving?

Grieving is a healing process that we feel when we lose someone.  Rather we may want to avoid the pain we feel during grieving due to our loss.  However, the more we ignore our feelings the harder it will get to move through the process and heal.

How do I get through the stages of grieving faster?

The best way to heal is to embrace the process.  There is no telling how long grieving will last for any specific person.  However, a sure way to draw it out and make it longer is to ignore it.

How can I help someone in grief?

Be there for them.  Don’t ask, just help. Offer to do specific tasks for them like laundry, taking out the trash, cooking, or picking up the kids. When someone is grieving it can be hard to reach out and hard to know exactly what you need help with.  It is best just to be present for that someone and think of things they need done without them having to tell you.

When will I be done grieving?

Grieving is a process of healing that has no clear end.  Especially if you are grieving over the loss of a loved one, the stages of grief may pop up here and there throughout your life.  However, the good news is that as time goes on, we get better at dealing with our grief, recognizing our feelings, and moving forward.

What do I say to someone grieving?

  • I’m so sorry for your loss.
  • I’m here for you if you need anything.
  • You are in my thoughts and prayers.
  • My favorite thing about your loved one was…
  • I don’t know how you are feeling but I am here for you.
  • I know it’s hard to be strong right now.
  • I have no words.
  • Would you like a hug?
  • There’s no right or wrong way to grieve.
  • Do you want to talk about your loved one?

How can a therapist help?


If you are incapable of doing routine activities, feeling depressed, having negative thoughts toward yourself, or are just feeling overwhelmed, therapy can really help.  In some cases, we need help to get through the grief as it is very hard to accept loss. A therapist helps you to go through your feelings and help you to understand and move forward from them.  Therapy can also equip you with tools to better manage your feelings in a healthy and constructive way.

If you have a tendency towards addiction, drugs, or alcohol, it is important to seek help before you make any negative decisions.


Helpful Resources:

Coping with Grief with Online Counseling

Grief is Not an Easy Journey: Endings are beginnings are Endings…

Video: Allowing Grief to Overcome Grief

What You Need To Know: Grief

Are you struggling with the loss of a loved one?

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