How to deal with grief

June 2, 2000

In her first book, On Death and Dying, Dr Elizabeth Kubler-Ross (MacMillan) says grief can be broken down into five stages:


  1. Denial

    This is usually characterized by a feeling of numbness, which then becomes denial as the bereaved person struggles to believe what has happened.

  2. Anger

    The bereaved person feels anger towards God, themselves, the person who died and other people.

  3. Bargaining

    When the bereaved person tries to make an agreement with God or similar to take the pain away.

  4. Depression

    This is when the bereaved feels helpless and the death hits home.

  5. Acceptance

    When the loss has been accepted and a new beginning is starting to take over.

Dos and Don’ts

Now take a look at the Dos and Don’ts when dealing with someone who is grieving.


  • Do accept that everyone is different and whatever that person is doing or feeling is okay.
  • Do say, “I don’t think I can begin to understand your loss. Is there anything I can do?
  • Do be patient and listen and be prepared to let the person talk about whatever they want to.
  • Do have the patience to go through photos after photos.
  • Do be particularly understanding around birthday, anniversaries and so on.
  • Do try to talk as normally and it doesn’t matter if they get upset.



  • Don’t’ say things like, “It was for the best, or I understand how you feel.
  • Don’t try one-upmanship. Everyone experiences different losses.
  • Don’t ever argue be accepting.
  • Don’t ever force someone to talk about it if they don’t want to.


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