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Fact Sheet

Experiencing grief


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Losing someone

If you’ve lost a loved one, you’re probably experiencing a lot of different emotions. Each feeling you experience is another step in your grieving process. The grieving process is like a journey—it takes you from the starting point of your bereavement to another stage in your life.

Stages of grief

Everyone grieves differently; some people become very quiet and thoughtful, others cry a lot. No one way is better than the other. Some experts believe that most people go through similar stages of grief depending on how far the grieving process they are. These stages include:

  • Denial: You might not believe that your loved one has really died. If your loss is recent, see other immediate reactions.
  • Anger: You might be angry at yourself, your family members, a higher power, or even the person who died.
  • Bargaining: You might try to negotiate with yourself or if you are religious, the figure you pray to in order to get your loved one - or even some piece of mind- back.
  • Depression: This might be an emotional low point for you, when you don’t care about anything or anyone. You might go through feelings of emptiness, loneliness, or might even stop caring about anything or anyone.
  • Acceptance: At this point, you may begin to make peace with the fact that your loved one has died.

Everyone grieves at this or her own pace because there isn’t a fixed amount of time that you have to go through these stages.

Making it through the grieving process

Managing grief is hard but here are some suggestions that may help you to get through the process:

Accept your feelings: There’s no right or wrong way to feel after losing someone you care about. Accepting the feelings you have and acknowledging that you’re going through a stressful experience can help you manage your reactions. Sometimes you might feel overwhelmed with your thoughts and feelings, which might make you think you’re going crazy. Don’t fret because this isn’t the case at all. It’s just another stage you go through when grieving.

Allow yourself to cry: It’s OK to cry. If you feel uncomfortable crying in front of other people, you might want to make a plan to leave and cry in a private place. This could be in a quiet room, at the park, at school, or in a campus counselor’s office.

Also, if you’re in school, it might be a good idea to let your teacher or professor know of your loss, so he or she can be aware of what you’re going through, help you along the way, and offer support.

Smile: Many times we focus on the sadness of losing a love one, but it may be helpful to talk about the memories and good times you’ve had with the person. It’s OK to enjoy those memories and laugh about the fun times you shared. This isn’t a sign that you miss the person any less.

Saying goodbye: Part of the grieving process is letting go of the person who died. It’s important to say goodbye in your own way in your own time. There’s no right or wrong way. Some ways that can help you say goodbye to the person is by:

  • Writing a letter
  • Going to the funeral
  • Having memorial service by yourself in your own way
  • Honoring your memory of the person who passed

It’s important to say goodbye in your own way and in your own time. There’s no right or wrong way to doing this.

Avoid bottling up emotions: Keeping things to yourself might build up tension inside you. Finding a way to express how you are feeling might help you to feel better. You might want to talk to someone, write your thoughts down, draw, or punch some pillows. Check out the Express yourself fact sheet for more ideas about how to get stuff off your chest.

Talk to someone: It might be helpful to talk to someone you trust about how you’re feeling. This could be a family member, friend, mental health professional, minister or other spiritual leader.

More Information:

Lots of issues can come up while you’re grieving. For more specific information on these different situations, check out these additional fact sheets:

Initial reaction after someone has died

Logistics after someone dies

Moving on after someone dies

Helping a friend after someone close to them has died

Communicating about grief with your family and friends

How to deal with grief and loss during holidays and special occasions

Acknowledgments

Some of the information is adapted from the book After Suicide, Help For The Bereaved by Sheila Clark. Published in 1995 by Hill of Content Publishing Company Pty Ltd, Melbourne 3000.

The Elisabeth Kubler-Ross Foundation

Last edited July 2014.

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