How To Handle Grief: Processes And Advice


The loss of a loved one is one of the most painful events we can experience, and yet it is something unavoidable for everyone. And yet, most of the time we are not prepared for this setback. Faced with this event, what we call a duel occurs. It is the natural psychological reaction we experience after a loss.

This psychological process is characterized by unpleasant emotions, usually sadness and pity, but they can also be confusion, frustration, guilt and resentment. Although it is a natural process, grieving is still complicated. That is why in this article we will talk about grief: what the grief processes are and a series of tips for managing grief.

Grief processes

Within the complexity of grief, in 1969 the psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross distinguished 5 phases of grief. Today it is known that each person experiences their grief differently, with different times in each phase, and not necessarily experiencing all the phases or in the same order in which Kübler-Ross described them. These phases are:

1. Denial

The denial phase usually involves a conscious or unconscious rejection of the situation and an emotional and cognitive shock, under frequent ideas of “this can’t be happening to us” or “I don’t believe it.”. It is not usually a very long-lasting phase, because it constantly clashes with the reality of the absence of the loved one or idea.

This response is a natural attempt to retain the rest of the phases to buffer the rest of the unpleasant emotions and suffering, so that they do not come as suddenly as they would without this defensive barrier. In cases of grief due to a breakup or life stages, living in a denial phase can increase the pain by trying to resist reality.

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2. Anger

In this phase, frustration arises when evaluating the situation, looking for possible solutions, but we end up observing that we cannot do anything to fix or reverse the situation. Simultaneously, we try to find culprits (even if there are none) on whom to vent our anger, we may even blame ourselves. Furthermore, pain in itself makes us irascible. That is why it is common for us to suffer outbursts of anger.

3. Negotiation

Negotiation is a brief stage in which it is perceived that there is some control of the situation. In this way, alternative solutions to the loss continue to be sought, with a more constructive approach, even when it is not possible to change reality.

Questions often arise like “what would have happened if…?” or “can we still be friends?” ; and even “pacts” with divine or supernatural beings to help us reverse the loss in exchange for something we have promised to do.

4. Depression

The stage of depression is what we imagine when we think about grief: deep sadness, a feeling of emptiness, a loss of the meaning of life, an existential crisis, physical and emotional exhaustion… It is when we truly realize that there is no turning back, that the loss is irremediable and that we will have to learn to live a new life which seems to us to be an uphill road without incentives to encourage us to continue.

5. Acceptance

The acceptance stage is the only one that necessarily occurs. It is when the mourning is over, since we have managed to adapt to our new life. This involves feeling peace, calm and understanding regarding the loss. Finally, we can think that everything is fine, and that we can move on.

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Tips for managing grief

As I said before, grief is a natural process, and it is better to go through it with resignation instead of trying to avoid it, so we can avoid it becoming complicated and blocked in some of the phases. To do this, we can follow certain tips that allow us to manage grief, make it as bearable as possible and ensure we reach the acceptance phase.

1. Don’t be in a hurry with your grief

Grief is very different from one person to another, but if it has something in common in all cases, it is that it takes time: from a few months to several years. The emotions that arise help us understand what has happened, even if it is a tortuous path. Give yourself the pause that your emotions ask for, do not repress them and draw your conclusions.

2. Remember to take care of yourself

During the grieving process, it is important that we continue to take care of ourselves and our family members. Paying attention only to memories, negative thoughts, and unpleasant emotions can leave you physically and mentally exhausted.

To take care of yourself, practice your favorite hobbies, prepare a good meal that you love, take a walk at sunset… This depends on your taste, but basically do what you enjoy the most, to give yourself a break and some well-being in these painful weeks.

3. Count on your loved ones

Take advantage of the fact that grief is a social process, common among everyone, and lean on your loved ones, they will know how to listen to you, understand you and support you. Being accompanied, talking about what happened, expressing your thoughts and emotions are the best way you can manage grief.

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Sharing pain with these people also makes the connection you have with them stronger. Let yourself be loved by these people and focus on how valuable the loved ones who are with you continue to be.

4. Focus on accepting the loss

Acceptance is the last stage of grief, and it is sometimes difficult to reach, especially in cases where the loss is not caused by a death. This is because it is not so obvious that the loss is irreversible and it is difficult for us not to try to fight or negotiate.

However, it is especially relevant that we accept reality. And because? Because resisting only doubles the pain and keeps us in it, it doesn’t let us move forward with our lives. For there to be a change, there needs to be acceptance. To accept, you have to:

Achieving acceptance takes time, so don’t be in a hurry, do what you can, respect your pace and needs. And above all, keep in mind that, despite the pain, life is worth it.