Understanding Loss and Grief

Grief occurs from loss, loss is a result of change, and change is an ever present part of life. We lose people, material possessions, part of our body or a bodily function, our role/identity, even future hopes and dreams, and the freedom of choice. So all people will experience loss and grief in life.

If you are supporting someone to promote healing, hope and purpose (abundant life) in their life, then you will need to know how to support them through loss and grief.  However in Western society we don’t always deal with grief well –  burying it instead of expressing it. We expect people to be over it, patting them on the head and saying ‘there, there – it will be alright,’ telling them it’s time to get on with their life!

As individuals and churches we are not always helpful in how we support people through grief but we can learn about grief and grow our skills in caring for those experiencing it. See blog  How to journey with those in grief

Understanding the process of grief

Understanding the experience of grief, can help you support a person through loss and grief.

One way to understand grief is to consider it as a process containing stages that we move through, although oscillating backwards and forwards.  For example, my four stage model based on researching other models and my experience at the end of my marriage:

Stages of grief

Initial shock                                                                                                                                                                                      

Involves denial, numbness, physical effects, withdrawal or busyness

The Reality Stage                                                                                                                                                                            

Acknowledging the reality of the loss and understanding the implications of the changes.

Involves many emotions including anger, depression, fear, anxiety, guilt, hopelessness.

Intense pain and sorrow.

Letting go                                                                                                                                                                                          

Accepting the implications of the loss and new reality.

Withdrawing emotionally from what is lost.

Involves saying goodbye, forgiveness.

Moving on                                                                                                                                                                                         

Healing and becoming ready to invest emotionally in the new reality.

Involves hope, peace, forward planning.

There is now a move away from stage models of processing grief describing them as ‘linear’. The Worden Task model based on grief following the death of a loved one ‘suggests that grieving should be considered as an active process that involves engagement in four tasks’ 1 which are shown below against my stages.

Stage of grief Worden task based model
Shock stage Accept the reality of the loss
Reality Process the pain and grief
Letting go Adjust to a world without the deceased
Moving on Embarking on a new life (still with connection to the deceased)

Watch the video below for an explanation of the process using my stages and Worden’s task

Other models include

A simple word explanation of the process is we accept the reality first in our heads, then in our feelings, and then we can adjust to life’s new pattern.2

How you can help

Here are 5 steps that can help.

  1. Be there for the long haul which includes both being there present and listening, but recognising long term support is required see blog 5 steps to support in someone experiencing loss and grief for details
  2. Recognise and name the loss see blog Step 2 Recognise the loss  for details
  3. Understand the process of grief and help the person engage with it see blog Step 3 Understand the process of grief and help the person engage with it for details
  4. Know when to refer see blog More answers to the questions how do you support someone who is experiencing loss and grief
  5. Self-care see blog More answers to the questions how do you support someone who is experiencing loss and grief

All the steps should be considered together. If you need some training in skills to support someone consider the ‘understanding loss and grief’ workshop. On-line version available in 2017 – click here to register your interest


1 Hall C, Beyond Kubler-Ross – recent developments in our understanding of grief and bereavement, Australian Psychological Society Dec 2011  https://www.psychology.org.au/publications/inpsych/2011/december/hall/ accessed 25/4/16

2 Wright, H. N (2004) Experiencing Grief B & H Publishing Group, U.S.A, p10

Understanding loss and grief is a workshop to assist participants to gain greater comprehension of the concept of loss and the process of grief, and how to support people experiencing them.

Understanding loss and grief interactive workshop covers:

  • concept of loss
  • the process of grief and healing
  • stages/tasks of grief
  • strategies to support people through grief
  • dealing with negative emotions
  • unresolved grief
  • resources and referrals

The workshop is not a counselling session and hence not suitable for those in the midst of intense or unresolved grief.

Workshops can be conducted at a time and venue to suit the organization by negotiation. The duration is 2 hours.



In loving others you need to self-care so you can run your race to the finish

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