Are There Really 5 Stages of Grief?

I’m going to come right and say it.

If you are working with a 
social worker,
grief expert,
or anyone else who is trying to help you navigate the wilderness of grief
and they start talking about 

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’
5 stages of grief 
and acceptance
suggesting that there is a linear, predictable order to grief 
please, please, please
do yourself a favor
and run as far away from that person
as fast as you can.

That “expert”
does not know grief.

Grief is the internal, automatic response to loss.

Everyone grieves.  Everyone.

If you are alive and have attached to anything.
A job.
A pet.
Your health.
Your looks.
Your house.
A person.
A certain lifestyle.
Your car.

If you have attached to something
and you lose that something
you grieve.

And as much as I’d like to tell you that grief will be
neat and tidy
and unfold in 5 stages,
it will not.


Grief is wild,
and messy
and unpredictable
and uncertain
and ever-changing and unsettling
and unnerving.

Most of us (all of us)
are ill-prepared
and ill-equipped
to go with the flow of grief
when it is our time
we never talk about it.

What it’s like to live with grief.

So when grief does expresses itself
in the often surprising
and confusing ways it does,
when all we want to do is sleep
or we can’t sleep at all,
when we eat and eat and eat,
or have completely lost our appetite.

When we feel
(to name just a few of the ways grief expresses itself)
seemingly at the same time.

We are experiencing grief.

And when our arms physically ache to hold our beloved,
when we have heart palpitations,
stomach pains,
and fight to keep our balance,
we are experiencing 

We think we are going crazy.

We are not.

We have entered the wilderness of grief.

And in order to get out
we must go through.


If my NEW WAY of "doing grief" resonates with you, I'd love to work with you one-on-one. If you are in the Rockford, Illinois area we can do that in person, otherwise, I am having great success working with people all over the country via Skype or FaceTime.  Email me at if you would like to take the next step on your grief journey and we can schedule a session.


  • The one comment made me sad – - not only because she is befuddled, but also because her daughter-in-law must have been having a bad day. Mrs. Olsen: Try not to take it personally! Remember several things. Everyone deals with grief differently. Teenagers are, well, teenagers! They can be unpredictable, inconsistent, and self-focused as they try to deal with growing pains, hormones, friends and social issues, and identity development. I seriously doubt that you are “needy and ungrateful,” but just in case do a self-check. “Needy” wouldn’t be a shocker for anyone in your shoes – - in fact it would be completely normal, at least in my eyes. Anyway, issue the invitation, and if declined graciously accept as you would for anyone else who declines a dinner invitation. Sounds like it’s time to expand your social circle. Tough to hear, even tougher to do I know. Best wishes.

  • My husband passed l year ago Sept. 10th, 2012. We were
    married for 58 great years. I realized I had never lived alone. Today I asked my only family nearby (son, wife,2 teenagers) to come for dinner tomorrow & we would re-
    member him with loving memories. We did that on his
    birthday in July & am told that it was an emotional time for the teenagers & they might not come! We all adored him; he was a kind, loving man.I said tell them their grand-
    mother would like them to come and got a long tirade
    from my daughter-in-law that I am needy & ungrateful.
    Is this too much to ask of family & that I do need
    their love & support? Doris Olsen

    Doris Olsen

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