The 5 stages of grief

What is grief?

Grief is the emotional suffering people experience after losing something or someone that they love. Grief can be described as a variety of emotions, such as depression, anxiety, sadness and loneliness. How someone reacts to a traumatic or emotionally-difficult situation in losing someone is a highly individual experience but overall, they will go through ‘the grieving process’.

What are the symptoms of grief?

Everyone is different and handles their emotions in their own way. Someone might go back and forth between particular phases of the stages of grief. Some of the most common symptoms of grief, particularly in cases of bereavement, include shock and numbness, lots of crying, feelings of exhaustion, anger, and guilt.

Under what circumstances might someone experience grief?

Grief might be experienced because of any of the following situations:

  • Divorce or a breakup
  • Bereavement - when a family member or friend passes away
  • Serious health conditions - including terminal illness
  • Losing a job
  • Loss of financial stability
  • When a pet passes away
  • Recovering from a traumatic experience
  • Moving family home
  • When your children ‘fly the nest’
  • Retirement

What are the stages of grief?

Feelings of grief occur in phases when a person deals with loss. Specialists have identified five common stages of grief:

1. Denial – “This can’t be really happening”
2. Anger – “Why has this happened? Who can I blame?”
3. Bargaining – “Stop this from happening and I promise I will ____”
4. Depression – “I feel overwhelmed with sadness”
5. Acceptance – “Finally, I can make peace with where I am in my life.”

How is grief treated?

Most people receive support from friends and family following a loss. There are also local support groups where you can share your sorrow with others who have experienced a similar loss. For those who continue to experience difficulty in coping with loss, grief counselling or grief therapy is necessary. An experienced therapist can help you to work through these intense emotions and give you tools to use to overcome your grieving.

When should I see a specialist about grief?

There are some cases where grief doesn’t get better and someone may not be able to reach the stage of acceptance. It is recommended to visit your GP if, after a prolonged period of time, you are completely out of your routine. This is known as complicated grief, which refers to bereavement that has lasted for more than a year. This includes if it is difficult to keep on top of cleaning your house, looking after yourself, and going to work.

If you feel depressed, or like you want to harm yourself or you cannot stop blaming yourself for your loss, then you should seek help. Your GP can refer you to a bereavement support group in your area and to a psychologist or psychiatrist who specialises in grief counselling.

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