Stages of Grieving: How You Can Help


Some say there are five stages of grieving that most people go through, but this shouldn’t be used as a way of telling a grieving loved one how they should feel because everyone will experience these stages in their own personal way.

What we have found is that the best thing anyone can do when supporting someone experiencing loss or trauma is offer support by being present – without judgment, criticism, with out giving advice or passing judgement.

During each stage of grief the needs of the bereaved vary.  However you can help a loved one along the path towards healing by simply supporting them as they grieve.  Not trying to diminish their grief, but helping them go through the grief process.

By understanding a few basic things about grief will help you to be a support to a grieving loved one.

The 5 Stages of Grief

The five stages of grief framework can help people cope with the loss of a loved one. This framework, developed by psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, suggests that we go through five distinct stages of grief after the loss of a loved one: Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance.

Later, she and she and David Kessler wrote the classic On Grief and Grieving. This book introduces a sixth stage of grieving – finding meaning. Finding Meaning: The Sixth Stage of Grief has been a helpful resources to many and I highly recommend learning more about it on the website.

Understanding The Grieving Process

Shock, denial, anger, guilt and depression are all common states to pass though during grief.  There really is no “right” or “wrong” way to grieve.  There is not a time frame or an expectation that a person will ever be “over it.”  By going through the grieving process many people do eventually find hope and acceptance.  Supporting, listening and standing by you can help your loved one go through grief.

Both sympathy and empathy are important to support a grieving friend.  Learning how to listen with empathy is probably one of the most important things you can do.

 What to Say

I think most people sense that it’s better be quiet around mourners.  It makes us feel helpless, but it just seems like there are no words that could possibly help.  Listening is the most important thing you can do to help, but there is also a time to offer words of comfort.  When it comes time to speak, there are some phrases that can be wonderfully helpful to the bereaved.

What to Do

The best ways to express sympathy are not difficult, expensive or time consuming.  There are very simple things that you can do today that will mean the world to a hurting loved one.

There are a variety of stages to grieving, and while you may not be able to help your loved one get through every stage, there are ways you can help them. Remember:

  • The grieving process is not a linear process
  • Everyone deals with grief in their own way
  • The burden of grief should be shared if possible
  • During each stage of grief the needs of the bereaved vary
  • You may not be able to help with every stage, but acknowledgment can go a long way
  • Be present

Offering Support During the Many Stages of Grieving

There are many stages of grieving, but it is not a linear process. However this understanding has helped many people frame and identify what they may be feeling. Not everyone goes through all of them or in a prescribed order. Everyone deals with grief in their own way.

Grief is not something that one person does alone; it takes an entire community helping each other through this tough time. If you want to help somebody who is grieving, simply support them as they go through their grief process.

Grieving Children: How to Help

Children of all ages experience grief.  The effects of grief may vary a lot between children and adults, but it’s there.  So often children get overlooked because they seem fine or because no body quite knows what can be done or said.  Children don’t have to be left out of the grieving process.  They need to find hope and acceptance as well.

For more information go to:

Children and Grief: Tips for Helping a Grieving Child