Grief is a natural healing process after a loss, Divorce or any kind of major disaster. Read this article to understand the stages of grief.

There is no single way to grieve. Everyone is different and each person grieves in his or her own way. However, some stages of grief are commonly experienced by people when they are bereaved.

  • Feeling emotionally numb is usually the first reaction to a loss, and perhaps lasts for a few hours or days. In some ways this numbness may help the person get through the practical arrangements and family pressures that surround the funeral, but if this phase goes on for too long, it could be a problem.
  • The numbness may be replaced by a deep yearning for the person who has died. The person may feel agitated or angry, and find it difficult to concentrate, relax or sleep. They may also feel guilty, dwelling on arguments they may have had with the dead person or on emotions and words they wished they had expressed.
  • This period of strong, often volatile emotions usually gives way to bouts of depression, sadness, silence and withdrawal from family and friends. During this time, the person may be prone to sudden outbursts of tears, set off by reminders and memories of the dead person.
  • Over time, the pain, sadness and depression begins to lessen. The person begins to see their life in a more positive light again, although, it is important to acknowledge that they may never completely overcome the feeling of loss.
  • The final phase of grieving is to let go of the person who has died and move on with life. This helps any lingering depression to clear, and sleeping patterns and energy levels return to normal.

How Long Does the Grieving Process Take

The grieving process takes time and should not be hurried. How long it takes depends on the situation and the individual.  In general, though, it takes most people one to two years to recover from a major bereavement.  Mourning behaviours and rituals differ between societies and between religious groups both in their form and their duration.


1) Denial

In the denial stage people refuse to believe what has happened. They try in their mind to tell themselves that life is as it was before the loss. They literally deny that anything has changed.  They can even make believe to an extent by re-enacting rituals that they used to go through with their loved one. These could be such things as making an extra cup of tea for the loved one who is no longer there, or rushing back to tell them that they have just met an old friend.   Other manifestations of denial could include flashbacks to times and conversations from the past as though the deceased were here with us now.

2) Anger

Anger can manifest itself in many ways. Individuals may blame others for their loss.  Alternatively they may blame themselves.  Typically, more introverted people will direct their anger inwards and more extraverted people will direct their anger outwards, though obviously some people will direct their anger in both directions.  People may become easily agitated culminating in emotional outbursts.

3) Bargaining

Bargaining can take place within the individual or if they are religious with their god. Often the person will offer something to try to take away the reality of what has happened. They may try to make a deal, to have their loved one back as they were before the tragic event occurred. It is only human to want things as they were before.

4) Depression

Depression is a very likely outcome for all people that grieve for a loss. There can be a feeling of listlessness and tiredness.  Often sleep patterns are interrupted and routines broken.  The person may be bursting helplessly into tears and have little control over such outbursts.  They may feel as though there is no purpose to life any more.  They may have unreasonable feelings that they are a failure.  They may also feel guilty and believe that everything is their fault.  They may also experience feelings that they are being punished, and why do these things not happen to anyone else?

Clearly these sorts of things happen to everyone at some time or other but the depressed person cannot see this to be the case.  Pleasure and joy can be difficult to achieve even from activities which have always given delight.  Lethargy, disinterest and a general lack of motivation may prevent the individual from getting on with their life.  Decision making and confidence in one’s convictions may prove too difficult. 

There may also be thoughts of suicide.  Any reference to suicide should be taken seriously.  Obviously there are many different permutations of depression and not all people will experience the same feelings, or with the same intensity.  

5) Acceptance

This is the final stage of grief. It is when the person realizes that life has to go on.  At this point the person can accept their loss and come to terms with it. They should now be able to regain their energy and goals for the future.  Some people will go about this slower than others, but the important thing is that they are back in the land of the living.

People do not always follow these phases in a set, linear way.  They may move through them, then backwards, then forwards again, or they might miss out some stages at all.  This is just a “typical” process of grieving. 

Course Extract from Grief Counselling course by Health Academy Australia