Losing someone you love can be a very painful and devastating experience. Grief is a natural response to loss and understanding the grieving process can help to ease some of this pain. In 1969, Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross introduced the “five stages of grief,” as seen below:

  1. Denial: “This can’t be happening, not to me!”
  2. Anger: “Why is this happening, Who is to blame!”
  3. Bargaining: “Make this not happen and in return I will give ___”
  4. Depression: “I’m too sad to do anything”
  5. Acceptance: “I’m at peace with what happened, it’s going to be okay”

It is important to understand that the grieving process is highly personal and each individual experiences different levels of grief and may or may not go through all of the above stages, or experience them in the order that they are listed. In fact, some people may go back and forth between stages for a period of time before they reach acceptance. Even after you have accepted the loss of a loved one, you may go back to these stages during significant life events, such as a wedding, birth or death of a family member, holidays or birthdays. This is completely normal. Dr. Kübler-Ross, in her last book before she died in 2004 stated, “There are responses to loss that many people have, but there is not a typical response to loss, as there is no typical loss. Our grieving is as individual as our lives.”

Once you understand the grieving process you can start to cope with the loss. One of the most important steps you can take to help cope with the loss is to reach out for support. Utilizing a support system of family and friends is key to working through your grief. Talking about your emotions and the pain you are experiencing is very therapeutic. Don’t be too hard on yourself while working through your grief, you may have set backs and this is normal. There is no set timeframe for the grieving process.

Another important step to help cope with grief is to remember to take care of yourself. Keep an eye on your physical health by maintaining good eating habits and exercise patterns. Understandably, this may be difficult when dealing with the loss of a loved one, but try to stay on track as best you can. Make an appointment to talk to your family doctor to discuss any symptoms of depression you may be experiencing so that they can offer support during this difficult time.

Allow yourself to feel whatever emotions you are feeling and remember that grief is a completely normal and natural response to the loss of a loved one.