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Grief, the process of losing someone close to you, is different for everyone. The stages of grief often follow a predictable pattern, but this doesn’t mean they’ll go smoothly for everyone. The grieving process can be both challenging and rewarding. While you can’t change the way you feel, learning to accept and cope with your loss is necessary on the path to healing.

If you’ve experienced the loss of a loved one, you’ve likely wondered: “What is the grieving process?” and “How can I cope?” Here’s everything you need to know about the grieving process — and how to get through it.

What is the Grieving Process?

The grieving process is a natural, though often difficult and complex, process of healing and adapting to the loss of a loved one. You can think of grief as a spectrum, with the “acute” stage at one end and the “mature” stage.

The acute stage is when you first realize that someone has died. You may experience emotions such as shock, denial, anger, and confusion. You may re-live the event in your mind and try to “undo” it by talking to or “crying out” to the person who died.

You may feel a sense of separation or aloneness, as though you’re “alone in the world.” You may feel a powerful urge to “collect evidence” that the death didn’t happen — that your loved ones are alive and well, and you’re merely in a “limbo” state.

The Five Stages of Grief

These are the five stages of grief that are normal throughout grieving. They’re not listed in any particular order, and some people go through all five stages at different rates.

How to Cope with the Grieving Process

Coping with the loss of a loved one is an essential part of the grieving process. If you’ve suffered a loss of a close friend or relative, you may need to process your feelings of loss differently than if you’ve lost a loved one farther away. There’s no “right” way to cope with a loss, but you must express your feelings and deal with the loss to begin the grieving process and move forward.

  • You may need to talk to someone about your loss. People who are grieving may find comfort in talking about their grief, and it can also be therapeutic to express your feelings — even if someone else is doing the comforting.
  • It’s OK to ask for help, and it’s not “losing your mind” if you have memories, images, or thoughts that are not typical after some time. You can also write about your feelings if you need to get them out of your head.
  • Do something you enjoy. While you may feel sad or empty while doing so, an activity can help you feel “normal” again and give you a sense of purpose. Many people find that their favorite hobbies become more meaningful after a loss. For example, collecting something that reminds them of their loved one.
  • Find a support system. You’re likely to need support after a loss, and it’s important to find others who understand what you’re going through. You can talk to a family member, a friend, a grief counselor, a clergyperson, or a support group such as a bereavement group. Many communities have bereavement groups that meet in person or online.

Final Words: Healing and Moving On

The grieving process is a natural and necessary step in healing. By expressing your feelings and talking about your loss, you can begin to accept it, put it into perspective, and move forward.

  • It’s OK to feel sad
  • It’s OK to feel anxious
  • It’s OK to feel lonely
  • It’s OK to feel anger

You don’t need to be “OK” or “all right.” Just be honest and authentic to yourself. You can move through the stages of grief and ultimately come out on the other side with a deeper understanding of what you’ve been through.

While the grieving process is complicated and complex, it’s important to remember that it’s a natural process. You may feel overwhelmed or helpless at times, but the more you express your feelings, the sooner you can begin to move forward.