Stages of Grief – Living Through Change

Stages of Grief – Living Through Change

Stages of Grief! When we go through any form of change in life we lose something. There is something for which we grieve. Even when things change for the better, something else is lost. Perhaps, it is only the comfort that comes from old habits and familiar surroundings!

We experience feeling of loss during all major life changes. For example, this could be when we lose someone close. Or, perhaps, it might be losing a job. But, the feelings overwhelm us, and this is unfamiliar and unwelcome.

So, it is useful to know what to expect. Then you can understand that you are not alone. And you are quite normal. You will be able to work through this experience to find a good way ahead!

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross.

Most theories on handling life changes like redundancy are based on the work of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross.

Stages of Grief
Elizabeth Kubler-Ross

Kubler-Ross was a doctor who spent a lot of time working with the dying in Switzerland.  She hated the way doctors often shunned the dying because they felt embarrassed by their own inability to help!  Busy doctors could always find an excuse to avoid an encounter.

Dr Kubler-Ross spent time both comforting the dying and studying them.  And, she wrote a book called ‘On Death and Dying’ which included a description of the stages of grief that is often referred to as the Grief Cycle.

In the years after her book was published, psychologists realised that this cycle was not exclusive to just the terminally ill.  This meant it applied to people who were affected by all kinds of bad news and life changes.

The important factor was not whether the change was good or bad, but how you perceived it.  If you think you are losing something you value then to a greater or lesser extent you will grieve for it.

Stages of Grief – the Kubler-Ross Grief Cycle

This chart illustrates her Grief Cycle!  It shows the roller-coaster of feelings that can follow news of a life change as you move between activity and passivity until you reach real acceptance. Of course, the reality isn’t as neat and tidy as this. You can slip, slide, and spiral backwards and forwards through the cycle until you teach equanimity again. But it still a useful model.

Stages of Grief

Information and lot of communication is needed at the beginning. Emotional support helps throughout. But it matters particularly when you are feeling lost in the middles stages. Later, guidance and advice on options can help.

Stages of Grief; how they really feel

So, there you are living your life as best you can. Then suddenly you learn something, or someone makes a decision. And it means life will never be quite the same for you again!

  • You move into Shock. Perhaps there is an initial paralysis at hearing the bad news).
  • You try your best to ignore it and go on day by day doing what you have always done. Denial means you are trying to avoid the inevitable.
  • Beginning to get frustrated, you know you just can’t avoid it. Anger may takeover with a frustrated outpouring of bottled-up emotion.
  • You try everything you know to find a way out And you may try to bargain, still seeking in vain for a way out.
  • Then you realise there is no way out. Depression can follow a final realisation of the inevitable.
  • Hopefully, you move on and start looking at options. And you may try out new ways of behaving.  You are testing but seeking realistic solutions.
  • You find the best way ahead for you. Acceptance follows as finally you find the way forward.

This description is extended slightly from the original Kubler-Ross model, which does not explicitly include the Shock and Testing stages. These stages however are often useful when trying to understand and work through change.

Experience varies and support helps.

Sometimes you go round the various bends more than once depending on your personal journey. Sometimes you can miss a stage out completely.  But I have described the most common journey.

People have found it useful to have the map when they go through personal change. You stop worrying about what you are feeling, knowing it is quite normal. You start to look for triggers that might take you onto the next stage. The support of friends and family can make a huge difference.  Working with a counsellor or life coach can also help, particularly if you get a bit stuck in one of the stages.

Wendy Smith is a career consultant, life coach and business coach with depth of experience in management, coaching and personal development. That experience means she is equally at home helping clients find a new career direction, starting-up new businesses or dealing with life’s more challenging personal issues. You can contact her at

Wendy has written a little eBook on how to get on with your boss and a book on job search – you can find her books on Amazon at this link


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *