The concept of the 5 stages of grief is a well known one and refers to the process that everyone goes through after losing a loved one or after a period of intense change. These different steps can be experienced in a linear way, or not. First and foremost, it is important to understand that every grieving process is different; but knowing the different stages can help you cope more effectively.

How many steps are there to the grieving process? There are different models; today, we present 7 stages of grief and provide you with the necessary tools to help you cope.

Different Types of Grief

Losing a loved one

Losing someone close to you is the first type of grieving process that comes to mind. No matter if it is a family member or a friend, this type of grieving process lasts for an average of 12 months, but can even be longer depending on the individual and the circumstances.

Going Through a Breakup

Grief does not only apply to someone dying, but also to events like a breakup, which also means having to say goodbye to a loved one, and leaves behind a feeling of emptiness that can be hard to fill. This type of grief can lead to strong feelings of abandonment and anger, and also to a sense of failure or loss of self-esteem.

Significant Life Changes

Losing your job, moving or immigrating, an illness or aging; life is punctuated by losses and transitions that can set into motion the different stages of grief.

Stage 1 – Shock

The first of the seven stages of grief is shock. A state of emotional shock following someone’s passing can lead to agitation and anguish. For some people it is the opposite: the shock causes them to freeze and feel nothing. This is a natural defense mechanism. 

It is important to accept the emotional state without judgement, even if it may seem strange or difficult to overcome.

Stage 2 – Denial

As a reaction to shock, some people enter another stage of grief: denial. It might feel like you are living a nightmare, that a mistake has been made; you might feel absentminded or disconnected.

Consciously or unconsciously, you are refusing to acknowledge the loss, because you do not feel ready to face reality. Give yourself time to integrate the loss; it will come.

Rituals in honour of your loved one’s memory can help you get through this stage. If you would like to organize a ceremony that honours your loved one’s memory, Yves Légaré will support you every step of the way, in Laval and Montreal.

Stage 3 – Anger

When facing the unfairness of grief, feelings of anger towards life or the deceased can manifest themselves. More often, anger is directed toward oneself, the people you are close to or the doctor. You might have the feeling that death could have been avoided. You might feel like you should have done more and regret not doing certain things.

This is a very challenging stage of grief and one where guilt often takes over. You might feel guilty for the relief you felt when a sick person died, or guilty for laughing or enjoying yourself.

It is important to recognize anger and all of the related emotions, to verbalize them or exteriorize them like with art or sport activities, for example. Do not attempt to avoid your emotions and stay clear of addictions.  

Stage 4 – Bargaining

The bargaining phase is a stage of grief in which we look for ways to compensate, avoid or reverse an event. This phase can be spiritual or interiorized. There is a feeling of trying to negotiate an agreement that will make the person come back to life: if the person comes back, I will be better. There might also be a desire to barter one’s life in exchange for the one who has passed.

During this time, it is important to be careful about emotional decisions; you might want to ask for help if needed.

Stage 5 – A Period of Intense Sadness

A depression after a loss if often the longest stage. Sadness is felt very deeply or intensely; it can also feel like nothing will ever get better. Symptoms of depression can appear like, for example, trouble sleeping or eating, or signs of anxiety.

Just like during the anger stage, you should welcome the emotions without trying to fight them. It is a very painful period that leaves little space for acceptance. If needed, ask a professional for help or support.

Stage 6 – Acceptance

During the sixth stage of grief, we can begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel. The person grieving is progressively beginning to feel at peace with the mourning period and emotions are no longer as intense. The person also becomes fully conscious of their loss; they begin reengaging in activities and life reorganizes itself.

Saying goodbye to a loved one can help you accept your loss. You can, for example, visit them at the cemetery and leave funeral flower arrangements, write a goodbye letter or any other symbolic gesture.

Stage 7 – Reconstruction

Suffering a loss is painful; but it can also lead to positive renewal. The passing of a loved one can make us question the meaning of life and spark deep self-reflection that can help us grow and evolve.

There is often new life after death. You can take advantage of this resilience to make changes that will help create a life you want.

Practical advice to help you cope with the different stages of grief

Ask a professional for help

The help of a psychologist can provide much needed help if your period of grief is longer or harder to cope with. There is also free support you can access: discover a long list of resources on our page “What to do if a loved one passes away?

Grief support groups

People who are grieving often feel isolated, alone or misunderstood. Grief support groups offer comfort and a compassionate ear to people who are going through a similar reality. This can help you share freely all of the emotions and thoughts you might find otherwise difficult to share, without feeling judged.

Speak with your loved ones

Finding the right words to describe your pain can help you better cope with the different stages of grief and to move toward acceptance. Sharing your suffering can help lessen the psychological distress and the feeling of isolation you might feel.

How to best support a person who is dealing with loss?

What should you say to someone who is grieving? Firstly, accept their emotions without attempting to make them feel better or to give advice. What will help someone who is dealing with loss the most is to feel that they are being listened to without any judgement and encouraged to express their emotions.

If you are looking for other ways to show your support, you can offer help for daily tasks and chores, and praise them for the small positive changes you notice. Being present is key.

Grieving inevitably means having to go through painful stages. Without minimizing the loss, accepting your emotions will help you cope better and reduce the intensity of the suffering to guide you toward a feeling of deeper peace.

Young woman supported by her mother after the bereavement stage