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Aspects of Grief

If you have experienced a deep loss (whether of a person or a dream that was important to you) or are supporting someone else in their loss, then it can be very helpful to understand and cooperate with the feelings that may be involved.  Most of us need to keep a balance between allowing our grieving process and continuing with the rest of our lives. An understanding coach can help you keep on track with your life while allowing healthy grieving and getting support from family, friends or a bereavement counselor.


The following article is by Phyllida Anam-Aire who trained and worked extensively with Elisabeth Kubler Ross before running her own trainings in Europe.

According to Dr. Elisabeth Kubler Ross, the natural stages of grieving are as follows.

DENIAL ........... NO, it cannot have happened, I cannot believe it . Not my son , wife  etc. This is not a negative place to be but a space of transition , before reality has actually hit home.  In many instances it is a very important defense against the total impact of the shock, e.g. in Northern Ireland when a wife has been told that her Husband has been shot dead, the body goes into shock and the mind cannot receive the information, so denial is a safeguard against the enormity of the trauma.

If however the person refuses to accept reality,  having been shown the evidence, then counseling to help them come to terms with the death needs to take place. It is often that the bereaved goes into ANGER at this stage.

ANGER ........ Why did she die ?.....It is not fair. How can she have done such a thing ?. It is OK for her to just die .... what about me and the children and all that?.... She just did not care for us .... etc. It is NATURAL to feel ANGER when someone we love dies. It feels like they have betrayed us .We feel abandoned by them. The frustration often felt by the surviving parent can manifest as anger either with the dead or with God or with themselves or with the medical staff. It is SO important for the bereaved to be facilitated into EXPRESSING their anger, otherwise IT will manifest itself inappropriately as BITTERNESS, DEPRESSION, RESENTMENT. Often the body suffers from held in anger and many psycho- somatic illnesses ensue.

BARGAINING ........ Oh God if only you would let my husband live .... I promise I will never drink again. If ONLY I can live until my son leaves School I will be a better person God ...... If I don't have cancer God I will pray more etc. In the grief of marital separation one partner will promise the other to change .... I will do anything but please do not leave me ......... and so one feels guilt for not having been GOOD ENOUGH.

WITHDRAWAL ....... This is often seen as a type of depression but it is a HEALING time. A time when the bereaved can be alone for a while and come to terms with the grief in his/her life. It is a time before acceptance and very much a catalyst for healing. This is often a time for reflection and remembering the loved one . A time when they may like to share photographs and other artifacts that bring back happy memories. It is not to be confused  with  nostalgia or sentimentality which can be a result of inactive grief and result in melancholy and morbidity.

ACCEPTANCE .........  According to Dr. Kubler- Ross this is the last stage of grieving. When one is able to accept as opposed to being resigned to the fact that the loved one did die . Though this is a deep grief LIFE goes on and the belief may be that one day they will meet again.

OUTREACH ....... I believe however that yet another stage of HEALING can take place. This stage I call OUTREACH. After the acceptance stage one can CHOOSE to LIVE life to the fullest capacity they can. Many bereaved people help others in their place of grief. They reach out to others in a gesture of empathetic listening and become wonderful compassionate friends to many. This empowers them to see a meaning to their lives after the death of a loved one. No doubt I am not advocating that everyone grieving SHOULD go out and help others in a similar situation ..... but I am saying that the stage of OUTREACH is a healthy stage and AT THE APPROPRIATE TIME CAN BE A GREAT CATALYST FOR HEALING.

I would like to note that these STAGES of grief can happen at any time. For example, one can start with BARGAINING and go on to ANGER, or start with acceptance ..... albeit premature ..... and go to DENIAL etc. Neither is there a certain time limit regarding stages. As long as there is ACTIVE grief, grieving will take as long as it takes ...... Just be sure that the feelings you are feeling RIGHT NOW others have also felt at some time or other during their grieving time. If you feel you need help looking at them, find out from your family Doctor the phone number of C.R.U.S.E. etc .............  You need not do it alone.

love and blessings,

Phyllida, © 1996


Phyllida Anam-Aire was the first European trainer accredited by Elisabeth Kubler Ross.
She is director of Alanna, Holistic Centre for Death and Dying.