Understanding Grief

The passing of a loved one is probably the most difficult type of loss that a person can experience in his lifetime. In our vocation where we deal with a lot of people who have just experienced a significant loss in their lives, it is essential that we know how to best approach them and provide their physical, emotional and psychological needs. 


Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her 1969 book “On Death and Dying” discussed about five stages of grief that people normally go through after experiencing a very significant loss. People may not go through these stages sequentially; and how each stage is expressed varies greatly from person to person given other factors (i.e. demographics, socio-economic, etc.). Despite these limitations, this bereavement model serves as a helpful guide in understanding and putting into context one’s feelings of grief.



Denial and Isolation are the common reactions to the shock and pain brought about by the loss of a loved one. As different emotions build up, people tend to hide away from the hurt and avoid the truth of the situation. This is however temporary as the pain will re-emerge and cause one to move on to another stage of the grieving process.


As the feelings of denial and isolation pass, the hurt is often turned to anger. We blame objects, family, friends, the world, and for some, even God and the person who has died. We feel guilty and the more that we feel that way, the more we are angry. Some people become angry at themselves especially if they feel they could have done something to stop the person from dying or prolonging the person’s life.


More often than not, grieving people also find themselves negotiating with God. “What ifs” and “If onlys” become prevalent at this time and we wish to turn back time and return to the way things were when our loved was still alive. At this stage, people will often try to make a deal/promise with a Supreme Being in exchange for taking away the pain or bringing the deceased person back to life.


For most people, this can be the most difficult stage to overcome. During this period, you realize that the other person has indeed passed away and you do not know what to do. You lose your sense of direction thereby causing feelings of hopelessness and uncontrollable sadness often exhibited through unusual behaviour. In some cases, depression from bereavement leads to clinical depression which then demands for professional medical intervention.


This stage is characterized by acknowledging the permanent absence of the loved one who has passed away and recognizing that one must learn to live without him/her. It is not as simple as feeling okay. Acceptance is being able to move on to start new relationships, establish new connections and grow as a person.

Going through these stages may take days, months or even years – there is no definite time frame. Some deaths are really painful and sudden making acceptance and moving on more difficult. Spiritual counselling and professional help may be necessary for some and having the moral support of one’s family and friends goes a long way in coping with grief.


Philippians 3:13 says,” Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus”. This means accepting the past and moving on forward to God’s ultimate plan for us. We can never really get over the loss but in some healthy ways we can get through it and learn to survive it. Getting over grief doesn't mean that we no longer care or remember the person who passed away. Acceptance of grief is simply about finding ways to remember our departed loved ones and adjust to life without them beyond the point of loneliness.








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