Different Stages of Dealing with Grief

There is no right or wrong way to grieve, as an individual may experience different emotions when dealing with grief.


When dealing with grief each reaction is unique and personal for every individual. Most people would experience a range of feelings and behavior changes after a loved-one has past-over to the spirit world.

To understand bereavement we need to make the distinction between grief and mourning.

Grief is a person’s internal thoughts and feelings related to the experience of a great loss.

Mourning is the external expression of one's grief. You may experience extremely painful grief but, because of a need to appear calm may not mourn.

Dealing with grief and mourning are intently personal and unique experiences we often refer to different stages of grief, but these often do not occur in an orderly progression. Depending on the situation and the individuals involved, one may not experience some stages or may cycle in and out of the same emotional state several times.

A major loss often brings up echoes of past losses. It the family members still have intense unresolved grief. It may complicate the way that they mourn.

Loss often happens in a family context. The family members grieve and mourn individually and as a group. The method of death sudden or the culmination of a long illness is an important factor. A sudden or violet death may be particularity difficult for the family to process because of the intense anger often involved.

If a parent dies the children may experience a double loss. One parent has died and the other is too overwhelmed to provide much nurturing. At this time extended family and the community or a counselor can step in to support the grieving family.

Marriage may be strained and even fall apart under the strain of death and mourning spouses. They may grieve differently and may resent the way that the partner behaves. Each may be too overwhelmed to reach out to the other.

Mourning though a painful process can also be a way for families to grow together petty conflicts seen less important in the face of loss. Relationships become more precious because they are fragile. Family members may learn to support each other and truly listen.

Seeing a counselor can give you support. When you are closely involved and cannot stand back from bereavement. A third party can provide you support and will help you to see clearly and rationally allowing you to start dealing with grief.

When you are dealing with grief it touches every aspect of your life. Expression or the thought patterns that surround grief are extensive, especially in the early period of grieving. These patterns can impair performance in work or school; sometimes these feelings can persist and lead to anxiety or depression.

As a counselor I see different signs of grief. Here is a list of the most common:

Disbelief: This can occur if there is a sudden death.

Confusion: Making a person feel mixed up and not thinking straight.

Concentrating: Your mind wanders from one thought to another.

Preoccupation: This is when thoughts are obsessed with the sequence of events during the illness, accident or the cause of the death.

The impact of death can cause behavior changes, no matter if the death was sudden or expected. The behavioral expressions of grief can include sleep disturbance, loss of appetite, absent mindedness, social withdrawal, dreaming of the person who has passed to spirit, searching for answers, restless, over activity and crying.

It is important to know that dealing with grief may continue for a considerable time. Some of my clients describe grief as a roller coaster of emotions which go up and down. There is a wide range of feelings which arise especially in the first year. It is not unusual for the bereaved to experience feelings of hurt especially around birthdays, anniversaries, holidays and other important dates.

Men and women have a different grieving process.
Men have a tendency to want to solve the problem by hiding their true feelings, by becoming more active in work and leisure. They will never talk to anyone and stay strong for anyone else.

Women are more likely to express their grief and receive support from others. Women are more likely to reach out to others; women are more likely to join a support group.

Children express grief differently from adults; this is due to children having a limited cognitive development. Young children do not understand what death is all about. By the time they reach the age of 10 they understand that death is permanent and is inevitable for all living things.

Here is a list to help you teach children about the issue of grief.

Prepare children for the reality of death by discussing death when they see it on television, in a film or in books.

Use the death of a pet as an opportunity to introduce the idea of death.

Avoid using sentences like “they have gone away” or “they are having a long sleep.

Understand that the disruption which grief causes can be confusing for children.

Be patient and understand the children might ask the same question over and over again.

Reassure children that the loss is not their fault children might feel they have done something wrong.

Share memories with them.

Allow the child to go to the funeral and prepare them for what is happening and want they will see.

Allow the child to see you cry, so that they understand it is alright to cry with you.

The fact is that grief affects all of us regardless of age. It is important for adults to understand that children when grieving can look to the adult for guidance and how you handle grief will affect any children that are around you.

In my experience as a counselor who deals with family loss, I feel that you are best to be patient, so that the person can grieve. Let them know you care and you are there to give them support.

Important things to remember:

Grief is a normal reaction to loss and affects every individual both young and old.

Understand, be gentle and patient.

Do not try to rush the process there is no specific time for grieving. The feeling of loss may never totally disappear.

If the person wants to talk about their loss let them do so. It is good for them to remember the good times.

Do not Stand at my Grave
By Mary Frye 1932

Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there
I do not sleep 
I am a thousand winds that blow
I am the diamonds that glint on the snow
I am the sunlight or the ripened gentle autumn rain 
When you awake in the morning hush
I am the swift uplifting rush of quite birds in circling flight
I am the soft star shine at night 
Do not stand at my grave and cry
I am not there
I do not die