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What Is Grief and How Do We Move Through It?

Shannon Keating

When you think of grief, what likely comes to mind? Death is most likely. This is completely understandable and valid because the two are almost always synonymous. 

But there are other forms of grief, a myriad of them with many layers. Grief is a complicated, multi-dimensional, individual process that can never be generalized in five steps” (TLC Group, 2006). 

A person who loses their job, despite the reason, may feel the grief of lost income, lost time spent chasing a dream, lost pride, lost connection with coworkers, etc.

An individual experiencing a romantic breakup may feel the grief of the heart; lost emotions. a lost connection. Those who are going through a divorce are especially susceptible to grief. Divorce symbolizes the loss of a “forever.” The grief of what the family unit was and how it is going to change can be devastating to a person’s emotions and outlook on their everyday life.

A person may feel grief over the selling of their childhood home. Or maybe moving away from a place they have called home their whole lives. Unfamiliarity and the loss of comfort are also grief.

These are just three examples of grief. I could go on and on for hours about it and the different forms it takes in a persons life experiences. Everyone feels grief at some point in their life — it’s inevitable. 

In her 1969 publication discussing grief and loss, Elizabeth Kuebler-Ross developed and elaborated upon what she found through her research to be the five main stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. All these stages are applicable to an individual’s unique grieving circumstances. 

So what are these stages?

The 5 Stages of Grief

When grief and loss first occur, individuals are thrust into this first stage. Reactive feelings can be so overpowering and overwhelming that in order to cope with the shock and immediacy, denial becomes a natural coping mechanism (Grief Cycle, 2011). 

After the initial reaction, the second stage of anger begins. Anger can be directed in a multitude of ways whether internalized at oneself or externalized towards others. 

The third stage, bargaining, is typically shorter than other stages. This stage is when an individual begins to existentially bargain with the universe to change the situation—to go back in time or to revisit how things should have or could have played out “if only” some factor had been different. 

The fourth stage is typically accompanied by symptoms such as isolation and lack of motivation for change

And finally, the fifth stage, acceptance, is when a person begins to accept and adapt to the sudden life changes. Adjustment to a different way of life begins. 

Okay, but how do we handle our grief? How do we get through these stages?

How to Work Through Grief

First, we acknowledge it. Acknowledge that you are hurting — the feeling of loss is real regardless of the reasoning behind it. It is OK TO CRY. Crying is the body’s natural pain reliever — there are literal enzymes in our tears that allow for relaxation and release of tension.

Second, please know that you are not alone in your grief. There are many individuals — even strangers that could relate to your situation. If you feel stuck, browse the internet for similar situations to yours and how others have handled them. Go read a self-help grief book or article.

Third, come to talk to someone here at Symmetry Counseling. Don’t be alone with your thoughts! We are trained to help you move through the phases of grief. Let us help relieve your pain with our empathy and understanding in the safe space we provide for your healing. Treatment modalities are different for each situation and we are prepared to help customize your care for your unique circumstances and experiences. If you would like to talk to a grief counselor, contact Symmetry today to get paired with a licensed therapist in Arizona, Illinois, Missouri, Texas, Virginia, or Washington D.C.  who can help you through the process.


DIY Stress Relief (2013). Grief Cycle: Steps of Grief after Loss and Bereavement. DIY Stress Relief. Retrieved from html

TLC Group, Editorial. (2006). Beware the 5 Stages of “Grief.” Retrieved from http://home.

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