Stages of Loss and Grief

Now I'm going to tell you about the stages people go through as they heal from loss and grief. Your individual healing process may flow differently than this outline, but usually it goes something like this.

First, I feel shock. I feel numb and afraid. My brain is shutting down feelings to help me cope.

The second stage is denial. I do not admit that there is pain and perhaps painful memories. I am denying the hurt or pain.

The third stage is anger. Why did this happen to me? I am outwardly angry because of my situation.

The fourth stage is blaming. Why did he / she hurt me? I blame my former partner for the separation and present situation.

The fifth stage is transition. I wonder what went wrong. I am still sad and maybe depressed, but I am beginning to reach out to others.

The sixth stage is acceptance. I accept that I can grow from my hurt. I am moving forward in a new life and maybe working towards a good parenting partnership with my former partner.

The final stage is healing. I feel good about myself. I know I can make it. I notice a good feeling about myself and my ability to grow and change. Balance is once again achievable.

So much talk about healing - but what exactly do we mean? We've all healed from cuts and bumps and bruises, and maybe even broken bones. But it's not quite as simple when we're healing from a wounded spirit and painful emotions. Healing means restoring your balance: physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. It means dealing with the things that happened in your past so that they don't interfere with your everyday life. There are five important things we need for healing: safety, responsibility, respect, cooperation, and celebration.


Safety is being free from physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional threat; a safe environment is needed for healing. Experiencing fear is part of each individual's life experience, but living in constant fear of abuse or neglect is damaging to healing. Safety is an individual, family and community responsibility.

Responsibility means you are in charge of your life choices and actions. You are willing to learn and change how you think about yourself and your behaviour. Responsibility means understanding that the wounds you received as a child, at the hands of adults, were not your fault. As an adult, you have to take charge of your own healing. Passing of these wounds onto others, by blaming or hurting, interferes with healing.

Respect is treating others and ourselves in a "safe" manner, and accepting that each adult is responsible for their own choices. Respect for an individual's choices of how to heal or to protect themselves is important. Lack of respect for different views has sometimes divided families and communities.

The third principle of healing is co-operation. This involves people coming together to accomplish goals of healing which are not possible for one person alone. Co-operation requires a balance of safety, respect, and responsibility. Co-operation builds on communal strength to support healing through a balance or sharing of power in the family and community.

For healing, it is important to take the time to celebrate your survival. You have made it this far despite the things that happened to you. Praise yourself for the healing that you have already done.