Grief is the reaction you have to big changes that impact your life in serious ways. Events that cause grief may include:

  • The death of someone important to you
  • The end of a significant relationship in your life
  • A serious or terminal medical diagnosis for you or someone you love1

Grief can be overpowering, even crippling. Everyone grieves differently. But there are common themes to grief that can help you define and explain what you’re going through, so that over time, you can begin to heal.

Stages (or Symptoms) Grief

The term “stages” may make it seem like the grieving process has steps you have to complete in order to “graduate.” But grieving doesn’t have a instruction manual. There’s no right or wrong way to grieve.

However, it can be helpful to know that the emotions you’re having are normal for someone going through loss. Having a category to put your feelings in can remind you that grief comes in many packages.

You may find yourself in any of these stages at any point in time when you’re grieving:

  • Denial/shock — Disbelief that it happened.
  • Bargaining — Trying to figure out who or what is to blame for what happened.
  • Depression — Feelings of loneliness and emptiness.
  • Anger — Frustration that it happened.
  • Acceptance —  Coming to terms with what happened.2

Grief can cause unexpected crying spells, disrupt your sleep, rob you of energy, and make it hard to function normally in your day-to-day life.1

Coping with Grief

There are things you can do to help move through the emotional fog of grief and into a clearer mental state, including:

  • Talking about the person you’ve lost.
  • Reminding yourself your feelings are normal.
  • Exercising, eating well, and taking care of yourself.
  • Being a support for others who are grieving.
  • Celebrating and honoring the person you’ve lost.3

If at any point your grief feels unmanageable, or if you are using drugs or alcohol to get through each day, find help from a counselor or other licensed mental health professional.


  1. National Institutes of Health
  2. WebMD
  3. American Psychological Association