The Grief Cycle

Grief can be a wild ride, or grief can be a gentle sail across a smooth lake. Grief is not something to get over, something to move through, or something to stuff away. Rather, grief can be a process that adds depth to our being and meaning and purpose to our lives. There is no right way to grieve. There is no right amount of time to grieve. We should not be over grief in three days, three weeks, or three months. Instead, we experience grief as a loss throughout the rest of our lives. Grief brings a richness to our being while leaving an emptiness at the same time.

Grief happens as a result of loss. It can be death of family, friends or pets. It can also be a break up, a divorce, a miscarriage or abortion, a job loss, a financial crisis, or a loss of identity. Although there are similarities between any type of loss, ultimately, each loss has its own unique characteristics.

In her 1969 class Death and Dying, Elizabeth Kubler Ross describes the process of grief. Ross identified a five stage process which has become the basis for our understanding around grief. The stages of grief are not linear or sequential. We move through them multiple times, multiple ways, in multiple patterns, over multiple years.

5 stages of grief     

  • Denial- this can’t be happening to me
  • Anger- what or who is to blame
  • Bargaining- If only I did… I promise I’ll be good if…
  • Depression- Why? why me? I feel so bad, so sad
  • Acceptance- I understand it will be ok

When we experience grief, we feel many emotions. At times, we feel relief if the person who passed suffered or caused great suffering. At times, we feel lonely or lost; we may experience great fear around what will happen to us. Our lives may not have noticeable change, or our lives may dramatically change. However, we can’t compare our experience to other people’s experience, because no one grieves the same way or at the same time.

How to cope with grief

Give your self time. Time to sleep, time to rest, time to feel. Racing back into the hustle and bussle slows down the process.

Be gentle with yourself. At times, you may be forgetful, or easily overwhelmed, or irritable. Often it’s easier to pull away from others. While pulling back can be taking care of yourself, it’s also important to not isolate.

Ask for support and allow others to help. Be specific. Do you want meals brought in or gift cards to use as needed. Do you need child care, housework, yard work done? Or someone to listen?

Be extra careful with your physical health. Maintain a healthy diet or at least as healthy as possible. Be aware of using food as comfort. Get some exercise; it’s good on so many levels and reduces stress.

The anniversaries and holidays can be difficult. There are certain life events where you long for your love one to be with you to share the experience.

Difficult times can be triggers as your loved one may have be your main support and strength to get though life’s challenges. Facing life’s challenges alone can be a huge obstacle, and you may lack some of the skills to meet the challenge. Asking for help at these times is vital.

Journaling can be extremely helpful in processing feelings. Writing and an art journal can help you express the multitude of feelings you are experiencing.

Most of all, be kind to yourself each day. This is a journey which takes a lot out of you, and the journey is uncharted for you.



  •  Kubler-Ross, E (1973) On Death and Dying , Routledge, ISBN0415040159

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