Only those who have lost a loved one can appreciate the complex and intense gamut of emotions a death can trigger. It's important to recognize that all these emotions are normal and to understand that working through them is vital to your mental health.

Don't be surprised if you experience strong emotions months, even years, after a loss. Anniversaries can trigger strong reactions. Even certain sounds or sights can remind you of your loved one and generate feelings of sadness and yearning.

The Grief Process

The death of a loved one is one of the most stressful events in life and can cause a major emotional crisis.

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, a physician who worked extensively with people who were dying, described five stages people often pass through as they grieve:

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance

You may not go through all the stages or experience them in the same order. However, understanding the grief process may cushion some of the shock of the intensity of your emotions.

Some people find themselves stuck in a stage or caught endlessly between stages. If you don't effectively transition through your, it can lead to mental health problems, especially major depression and complicated grief. According to the American Cancer Society, one out of five people in bereavement develop depression, especially if they've experienced depression in the past, don't have a support system, or struggle with substance abuse. Major depression and complicated grief are characterized by constant negative self thoughts or thoughts about suicide, guilt, delusions, extreme weight loss, and difficulty functioning.

If you've experienced these symptoms for more than two months, see a mental health professional.

Coping with Loss

There are many ways you can cope with loss. However, they tend to fall into two categories: seeking support and taking care of yourself.

When you're grieving, reach out to people who care and seek their support. Turn to your faith-based community if you have one. Support groups provide a way to share experiences with others who've had a similar loss. Don't be afraid to seek professional grief counseling.

Take care of your own health. Accept that life is for the living, and be patient with yourself. Be prepared for episodes of grief. Express your feelings. Unexpressed emotions can create a host of health problems. Postpone major life changes while you are in mourning.


Smith, Melinda, M.A., Jaffe-Gill, Ellen, M.A., and Segal, Jeanne, Ph.D. "Coping with Grief and Loss: Support for Grieving and Bereavement." Web. January 2009.

"Grief: Coping with reminders after a loss." Mayo Clinic. Web. 9 September 2009.

"The Kübler-Ross grief cycle." Web.

"Major Depression and Complicated Grief." National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health. Web. 17 January 2009

"Factsheet: Coping With Bereavement." Mental Health America. Web.

"Coping with loss." Association for Death Education and Counseling. Web.

"Bereavement, Mourning and Grief." National Cancer Institute. Web.