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Stages and Process of Grief and Loss

Updated on April 6, 2012

I was walking home from school, maybe 5 years old and found an injured bird. Thinking back I realize it must have been hit by a car or something because it lay bleeding...dying on the side of the road. I put it in my lunch sack and brought it home.

I kept it in my 'play refridgerator' downstairs. Everyday I would feed it water and clean the blood away from it's mouth. While I was at school, my mother found my patient who had died.

Thinking back, and yes I realize this is probably disturbing, I think that bird was dead after the first hour or so after I picked it up. But through my eyes, it was injured and I could make it better.Being only five years of age I really had no idea either way, but that bird became special to me. I loved it.

My father dug a grave in our backyard and we had a funeral. I cried. I missed this little creature and what it had taught me. I learned that not everything could be saved and I must work through those feelings of loss.

The Grieving Process

The grieving process is something will we all be subject to at one point or another in our lives. Although we all grieve differently, there are five stages that people usually follow- with or without being aware of it.

  1. Denial
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance


Grief can't be shared. Everyone carries it alone, his own burden, his own way.

--- Anne Morrow Lindbergh

My Grandfather

My first experience of losing a family member was my grandfather passing. He passed on Halloween. I believe I was six or seven years of age. I felt overwhelming guilt thinking that I was selfishly begging for candy as he died of a heart attack.

The day of my Grandfathers funeral my parents, siblings and I went to my Grandmothers house.I felt consuming sadness and embarrassment as I sat in my grandparents’ living room, listening to my siblings laughing and goofing around while playing ping-pong downstairs. As my grandmother cry into her double shot of bourbon, I wept for the lack of consideration they possessed.

I did not cry for the loss of my Grandfather that day. I remember gazing at this man laying in a box, dressed so elegantly in a suit with arms crossed over his chest. He did not seem real to me. This man was not my Grandfather. I felt, well...nothing.

I did not grieve for him until many years later. However, when I cried, I felt as if he died the day my first tear fell. The hurt was so deep, aching within my heart. My stomach in knots as if I was to throw up at any moment. I felt sadness for my Mother who lost her Father. I felt anguish towards my Grandma who had lost her husband.


When we experience something that is horrific or a loss to us personally, we deny. We deny because we are just not ready to accept this as a true happening. Denial is an unconscious way of protecting yourself from the truth. People often find themselves telling the story of their loss over and over, which is one way that our mind deals with trauma. As denial fades, it is slowly replaced with the reality of the loss.


Slowing the truth creeps in and you begin to feel angry. We become angry at the loss we are experiencing. We blame others for our loss. We can become easily agitated and turn our anger on others. We can even become angry with ourselves. Personally, I feel that although you may express your anger at the wrong person, at least you are expressing your anger. The worst thing you can do is keep it inside. Repressed anger is like a shaken bottle of Champagne, it builds and builds pressure until eventually the cork is pops and it is everywhere.


It's only human not to want to have a loss of a loved one. Bargaining tends to take place with your God or Higher Power. You make a deal to take away what has happened. You may even say something like, 'Take my life and give hers back.'


The loss of a loved one or any experience that causes great pain can and most likely trigger the onset of depression. Loss of energy, bouts of tearfulness and the feelings of pain and loneliness are normal. To not feel sad or depressed would be abnormal. But, depression is a stage,if you find yourself not moving on after a respectable time-frame, consult your doctor.

It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God
that such men lived.

---George S. Patton, Jr


This is the stage inwhich you feel you can go on. You have accepted the loss. Many feel that by accepting the loss you are 'forgetting' or should have no feelings about it any longer. This is false. To forget would be apart of denial, it would be easier to deal with it that way. Not a part of this stage. You will always feel a sadness or an emptiness where that person or event was involved. But with acceptance, you can look back but still move forward. It is about not being stuck in the loss.

To find acceptance you must experience the stages, as hard as they are.

You will feel whole again. As hard as the loss is on you now, it will come. Allow yourself to feel angry and sad. Don't put on a 'brave face' to please others, allow yourself the emotions. By dealing with the loss you will eventually heal. My thoughts are with you.


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