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Understanding Your Grief

Updated: Dec 4, 2023

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Grief is our natural, emotional response to a loss. Different types of losses can range from the loss of a loved one, a loss that is perhaps unrecognized by society (death of a pet, divorce, loss of a job), to anticipatory loss. Whichever the loss, grief, and the grieving process is unique to the individual and is experienced distinctly according to the bereaved. Renowned psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, outlines the common stages of grief into five stages. However, because the nature of grief is exclusive to the individual, the stages of grief can be interpreted and experienced entirely differently from person to person. Exploring these stages could aid in understanding loss and many ways, aid in putting into context the current place one is at in their grieving process. It can help you to make sense of your feelings, emotions, and thought processes following the loss.

The Five Stages of Grief


This can generally occur directly after a loss and is our way of protecting ourselves and simply surviving from the immense pain we feel after a loss. Life can feel overwhelming in this stage and finding meaning in life can prove to be difficult. Denial can begin with numbness, feeling as though this is not the actual reality of what is going on. Therefore, a more "preferably reality" takes place, where you do not accept the loss, you simply deny it, because grief is too much to bear. It can be a challenge to make sense of the loss, the initial shock but once you can work through this stage, the healing process can truly begin.


When we lose a loved one, we can feel tremendous pain which can be redirected as anger. Questions such as "How could you leave me all alone?" and "What did I do to deserve this?" are common during this stage. It is not uncommon to feel angry towards the deceased or the situation. It's painful to lose someone and you may feel resentful towards them for causing you so much pain, in addition to leaving you behind. You feel alone.

Try to remind yourself that although you are angry, the underlying emotion that you feel is pain. However, allow yourself to feel angry, as this emotion can be a catalyst towards your healing journey.


This is about the internal negotiation that bereaved individuals experience after a loss. Feelings of guilt and remorse are common in this stage and works in conjunction with bargaining. The grieving person may go down a path of, "If only I had" or "what if I had", often finding guilt and fault in themselves and that perhaps in some ways they could have prevented the loss. You may feel that you are grasping at hope or the idea that you would be willing to do anything to prevent the loss from taking place, and therefore, you hold onto that hope.

Examples of Bargaining

  • Divorce/breakup: "If only I had done more for him, he would have stayed."

  • Death of a loved one: "If only I had checked in on her more frequently, she'd still be here today."

  • Job loss: "If I had accepted to work on those weekends, they'd see just how hardworking and valuable I am to the company".


Sadness is a common emotion in grief. However, prolonged feelings of hopelessness and sadness could be a potential warning sign of depression. Symptoms include feeling stuck, unmotivated to complete daily tasks, inability to function on a day-to-day basis, lack of interest to interact with others or participate in activities that previously brought enjoyment. Grief can be a trigger for depression but it is important to make note that not everyone that has experienced a loss will experience depression.


This stage is about learning to live with the loss. Each day can present new challenges, and acceptance is about acknowledging those challenges, being kind to yourself, and allowing yourself to create and find space/routine in your life after the loss. As time passes, the loss can become a bit easier to live with but acceptance isn't about moving on entirely, it is about carving out new ways to adjust to life after loss.


The grieving process is overwhelming and healing happens overtime. Allow yourself the time and space to work through your grief. Be flexible with yourself and allow yourself to grieve in a way that is most meaningful to you.

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Seek and accept support. Lean in on your existing support system and allow for them to be there for you.

  • Meet with friends for coffee or lunch.

  • Keep a journal to write about your feelings.

  • Consider writing a letter to the deceased to express your feelings, thoughts, and emotions.

  • Be kind and gentle to yourself.

  • Allow yourself to feel the emotions, and understand that your grieving process is unique to you.

  • Try not to compare your grief with other people's grief.

  • Praise yourself for your accomplishments, no matter how small. If you've gotten out of bed this morning----celebrate that!

  • Explore a new skill! If you're thinking about that rock climbing activity, ceramic/pottery, or cooking class you've been meaning to try out, do it! Ask a friend to join.

  • Try to incorporate exercise as part of your daily routine. This can include going for a stroll in the evening, a brisk walk, bike riding, swimming, or any other physical activity.

  • Speak with a counsellor or join a support group.

Written by Sarann Johnson from The Lighthouse Counselling. We offer counselling, psychotherapy and life coaching to promote wellbeing and personal growth. Contact us to schedule your first session. Online session is available for anyone anywhere and we are located in CBD Singapore.

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