How To Manage Grief & Loss

One of the most complex emotions to navigate, grief & loss can be devastating!

Regardless of the subject of your grief & loss, you can often feel a mixture of intense emotions, as well as feelings of loneliness & isolation.

Grief & Loss are defined as:

“Grief is the acute pain that accompanies loss. Because it is a reflection of what we love, it can feel all-encompassing. Grief is not limited to the loss of people, but when it follows the loss of a loved one, it may be compounded by feelings of guilt and confusion, especially if the relationship was a difficult one. – Psychology Today

As the feelings of grief can be so all-encompassing, it can be difficult to begin to process and move through the many emotions you’ll inevitably experience.

As a starting point, we’ll walk through the most common stages and emotions of grief & how to begin navigating through them.

Stages of Grief & Loss

When people think of the stages of grief & loss, they are typically recalling the Kübler-Ross Grief Cycle. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross was a Swiss-American Psychiatrist  who’s field of focus was near death, death and the grieving process. Her book, On Death & Dying included the 5 stages of grief & loss, now known as Kübler-Ross Grief Cycle.

The Stages of Grief & Loss as understood by Kübler-Ross include:

  • Denial

  • Anger

  • Bargaining

  • Depression

  • Acceptance


Denial is characterized by a feeling of shock & numbness. While in denial, we typically focus on how to move forward, or wonder if moving forward is even possible. The shock and numbness can sometimes mask the complex feelings of loss we have. We may refuse to acknowledge reality or downplay the severity of our feelings in order to survive the loss.


The next stage is anger. This is a time where we may begin feeling hostile emotions towards ourselves, friends, family, doctors/medical professionals, even God or a higher power. Anger is often masking a deep level of pain and is a normal part of the process.


Bargaining can be a stage of reflection and “what if” or “if only” thoughts. You wish your loved one would return or your relationship would be restored and you’d do anything if only you could go back to your version of normal. In this stage we can tend to focus on the past, analyzing our actions, memories and try to determine what could have been done differently.


After examining the past during the Bargaining period, we turn to the heavy reality of the present, without the person or thing we’ve lost. During this time it may be hard to function, getting through the day may be hard or may feel impossible and others around you may notice.


The acceptance stage does not necessarily mean that everything is ‘ok’ or ‘back to normal’. It simply describes the notion that you’re able to fully acknowledge the loss and come to terms with the fact that the subject of your grief is not coming back. By accepting the loss, we are able to begin moving forward, keeping in mind that the loss will still hurt and that’s OK.

Grief Is Not Linear

It’s important to note that the five stages of grief are not always a linear path to healing. It is very common to move through the stages out of order or to go backwards and forwards several times. These stages can last for weeks or months and can often chance minute to minute. Grief & loss is extremely complex and although the Kübler-Ross Grief Cycle is considered one of the most popular studies of grief, it is by no means the only methodology. Recently there has even been calls to re-examine our reliance on the cycle. That said, it is still considered a very useful tool to better understand your emotions while moving through grief.

Coping With Grief & Loss

Since grief & loss can be felt in a variety of situations (not just death), it can take a variety of methods to help us navigate grief. Some of these methods include:

  • Surrounding yourself with others who care about you and can help support your journey

  • Trying to take care of yourself mentally & physically as best possible

  • Dropping the pressure or expectation to ‘recover’ or ‘get better’ on a timeline

  • Accept all emotions, even those that may be considered negative or taboo

  • Understand that grief is unique and will be felt differently by everyone

  • Seek support through therapy or group sessions focusing on grief & loss

Interested in working with a professional as you navigate grief & loss? Contact us today!

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