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by Frank A. Trupiano, LCSW

While most people associate grief with the lost of a love one, grief can occur whenever a person goes through a major change or a loss of a significant relationship.

Marriage, divorce, graduation, retirement, a change in jobs, children leaving home, experiencing a financial or legal problem,  a diagnosis of an illness--even holidays like Christmas or New Years—can all cause grief.

While the life-situations that trigger grief are numerous, for most people, grieving follows a specific pattern, which proceeds through a serious of five stages.   Elisabeth Kubler-Ross first described these stages in her 1969 book, On Death and Dying, and they have become a popular model to explain the intense and conflicting emotions of grief.

Stage 1.  DenialDisbelief is a common reaction when a person confronts a major life-changing situation.   During this stage, people often report feeling numbness or shock, and think, "No, this can't be happening." 

Stage 2.  Anger. Once the initial event has been acknowledge, people often think "Why me?" Why is this happening to me?" As they attempt to understand the event, a common reaction to lost is anger, rage, and resentment.  The grieving person often displaces his anger onto family members, friends, co-workers, anyone, including God.  

 Stage 3.  Sadness.  When the grieving person starts to come to terms with their loss, their anger usually turns into sadness.    Their anger was merely a defense from feeling their loss too intensely.

Stage 4.  Bargaining. Doing this stage, a grieving person attempts to understand their loss and to find closure. They may ask themselves, "How could I have prevented this loss?" Or "If only I would have done this, maybe things would have turned out different."

Stage 5.  Acceptance. When people finally face their loss and accept what has happened, they experience acceptance. Getting to acceptance is important because, sometimes, people get stuck in their grief.  People suffering with depression are many times suffering with unresolved grief.

            While it is helpful to think of the grieving process as occurring in stages, no one actually goes through these stages in a linear fashion; in reality, people may bounce back and forth through them until they eventually work through their feelings and arrive at acceptance.

 Tips for Coping with Grief


Take your time. Don't judge or measure your reactions by those of others.

Talk, share your feelings and the meaning this loss has for you.

Pay attention to your body's needs. Exercise (according to your doctor's recommendations) and balanced nutrition or essential.

Surround yourself with friends and family who love and support you. Avoid isolating.

Tears may come unexpectedly and at times when you thought you were finished grieving. Be patient which yourself. Their intensity and frequency should diminish with time.

Allow yourself time to grieve as well as giving yourself breaks from the grieving process.

If you follow a religious faith, this can be a time for prayer and quiet meditation. Seek out your faith mentors.

Avoid alcohol and other mind-altering substances.

Learn to be sensitive and flexible with your needs and lifestyle.