Stages of Grief: Understanding Loss

The Five Stages Of Grief

INDIGO EXPLAINS / Stages of Grief

As much as no one likes to talk about it, loss is an unavoidable part of life. And while weathering the seas of loss can feel difficult, understanding the different stages of grief can make a world of difference.

Grief can feel extremely isolating, particularly when it feels that no one gets what you’re going through. But understanding the stages of grief can help us through the enormous weight of death and dying.

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Stages of Grief: A girl stands in water staring out at the sunset
Stages Of Grief: Water passes through a hand

Everyone grieves differently

Before we get down to business, it’s important to note that the grieving process is complex, and looks different for everyone.

The five stages of grief aren’t clear-cut or cookie-cutter – some people might find one stage lasts a short while, whereas others could be cloaked in grief for much longer.

The stages of grief also aren’t linear – it’s completely normal for people to go back and forth between the stages as they process their grief. They’re also not all-encompassing; a vast array of feelings can pop up, so it’s vital to allow yourself space to grieve in your own way, particularly after the death of a loved one.

What are the five stages of grief? 

Developed by Swiss American psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, the five stages of grief outlines the concept of the path most people take through five very distinct stages following a loss. The Kübler-Ross model of grief includes the following:

  1. Denial
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining 
  4. Depression 
  5. Acceptance 

Let’s get straight into it by exploring denial.

Denial

The first stage of grief evolves around coming to terms with the shock of what has been happening, and the initial absorption of the loss. This shock and denial stage helps us to buffer the overwhelming pain of the loss as we process it. It can also act as a sort of buffer for emotional pain.

As the loss is so raw, this is the stage where our entire realities have shifted. Our minds generally need time to process this and adjust to the new reality, as we think back on our shared experiences.

Framed by an overload of new and painful information, the stage of denial helps us attempt to slow the process of emotional bereavement down. It can help us to take things one step at a time, so we aren’t completely drowning in overwhelming emotions.

A figure stands, reflected in water surrounded by flowers
Stages Of Grief: Anger. A girl stares out while half submerged in water, fully clothed

Anger

The second stage of grieving is anger. As our mind begins to attempt to adjust to our new reality, intense emotional discomfort usually arises. With so much to process and an overarching sense of pain and injustice, anger is a very common emotional outlet.

Likely experiencing a sense of isolation in our loss, anger is an accessible state of being that doesn’t require vulnerability. Emotionally, it can feel like a safer state to enter instead of fear or heartbreak, and it can often allow emotions to flow without a fear of rejection or judgement.

It’s important to note that this can be one of the most difficult times in our grieving process, simply because of the way we may be perceived as unapproachable by others. It can hurt to let others in at this stage, especially when all we need is comfort and support.

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Bargaining 

This is often one of the most emotionally raw stages of grief, as we begin to settle into the reality that our loved one isn’t around. Bargaining refers to the feeling of being so desperate that you’re willing to do anything to alleviate or minimise the pain.

Although most of the time this bargaining doesn’t make much sense, it’s a natural reaction to grappling with a pain that feels too big to withstand.

Bargaining is a feeling that makes us feel innately human in our inability to do anything about the chasm of pain we are feeling – but we try it anyway. A lot of the time, bargaining often involves directing our pleas to a higher power, or anything that we may feel could influence the situation.

It can involve a lot of ‘if only’ revelations, and is often paired with intense feelings of guilt or reflection. It’s common to also place blame on yourself, in thinking along the lines of ‘if only I had done this differently, things would be different now’.

Stages Of Grief: Bargaining. A hand rustles corn stems
Stages Of Grief: Depression. Flowers float down a river

Depression

As the fog clears, our intense emotions calm down and time moves along, the depression stage rises up. The reality of our situation sets in, and bargaining no longer feels like a tangible option.

It’s during this stage that we begin to feel the massive loss of our loved one. The emotions become unavoidable and much more present in our lives. It’s common to retreat inwards as we feel sadder – and connecting with our pillars of support can feel harder and harder.

Although every stage of the grieving process is difficult, this stage garners a new sense of intensity as we finally begin to grapple with life without our loved one.

Acceptance

Despite the name of this stage, acceptance doesn’t mean we’re completely okay with what has happened. It’s more about coming to terms with the loss, learning to live with it and reshaping the way you live your life.

This stage can evoke comfort in reaching out to loved ones for support again, but it’s also completely normal to experience stages of withdrawal at times too.

It’s also totally normal to feel acceptance, and move back into another stage of grief again too. Going back and forth between stages is a difficult but completely natural part of healing.

Eventually, you might find yourself settled into this stage more permanently – but that doesn’t mean you’ll never experience feelings of sadness around your loss again. It simply means you have learnt to accept the loss; you approach the loss in a different light, and are able to see a different, potentially softer perspective on it than you could before.

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Stages Of Grief: Acceptance: A hand touches water with light behind it

When should you reach out for help?

No matter where you are on the scale of grieving, reaching out for support is a completely valid step to take. It’s incredibly important to take care of your mental health through periods of grief and loss.

Some instances where you might want to reach out for support include:

  • You’re experiencing physical pain or discomfort 
  • You need to return to school or work but you’re having difficulty integrating 
  • You’re a sole guardian for someone and need help grappling with how to support them while also caring for yourself
  • Your emotions are becoming more intense 
  • You can’t leave your bed or your home because the feelings are too intense
  • You’ve thought about hurting yourself or others 
  • You’re having intense trouble processing your loss
A figure walks into the sunset holding a frame

Grief Counselling & Grief Therapy

Depending on how you’re feeling and what kind of support you need, reaching out to friends and family can give you a sense of connection and a sense of validity. Support groups can also be a pillar of strength at difficult times, as it can be cathartic to exchange feelings and stories with others who have had similar experiences. 

Finally, seeking the support of a caring therapist who specialises is grief, is an incredibly helpful way to process the chasmic feelings of loss. If you’d like support with the loss of a loved one, the Indigo Project is always here for you. 

Get to know our Grief Counsellors here or get in touch today:

Call (02) 9212 5469 or email [email protected]

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Meet Our Therapists

PhotoANNIA BARON

annia baron, Clinical Psychologist

PhotoDR NAVIT GOHAR-KADAR

dr navit gohar-kadar, Clinical Psychologist

PhotoMAJA CZERNIAWSKA

maja czerniawska, Senior Psychologist

PhotoEUNICE CHEUNG

eunice cheung, Psychotherapist & Counsellor

PhotoAYANTHI DE SILVA

ayanthi de silva, Registered Psychologist

PhotoTAYLA GARDNER

tayla gardner, Psychotherapist & Counsellor

PhotoKATIE ODONOGHUE

katie odonoghue, Relationship Coach & Couples Therapist

PhotoLORNA MACAULAY

lorna macaulay, Senior Psychologist

PhotoSHUKTIKA BOSE

shuktika bose, Clinical Psychologist

PhotoDEEPIKA GUPTA

deepika gupta, Clinical Psychologist

PhotoEVA FRITZ

eva fritz, Senior Psychologist

PhotoDR EMER MCDERMOTT

dr emer mcdermott, Clinical Psychologist

PhotoNICOLE BURLING

nicole burling, Senior Psychologist

PhotoNATASHA KASSELIS

natasha kasselis, Senior Psychologist

PhotoDR PERRY MORRISON

dr perry morrison, Senior Psychologist

PhotoGAYNOR CONNOR

gaynor connor, Psychotherapist & Counsellor

PhotoSHAUNTELLE BENJAMIN

shauntelle benjamin, Registered Psychologist

PhotoLIZ KIRBY

liz kirby, Psychotherapist & Counsellor

PhotoSAM BARR

sam barr, Clinical Psychologist

PhotoDARREN EVERETT

darren everett, Senior Psychologist

PhotoJAMIE DE BRUYN

jamie de bruyn, Senior Psychologist

Frequently Asked Questions

Who is The Indigo Project?

We are a progressive online counselling practice, providing telehealth services in Australia. Our passionate and experienced local team includes psychologists, psychotherapists & counsellors, coaches and therapists that are trained to deliver online therapy to you in a safe and convenient way.

Whether you are looking for short or long term support through a challenging time, or looking to discover your potential, we want you to feel comfortable on every step of the journey.

Read more about Our Story 

Telehealth: About Therapy and Online Counselling

What can I expect from therapy? What is therapy like?

Every therapist is different and their therapeutic style and personalities are all unique. However, all of our Indigo practitioners will hold a compassionate and non-judgmental space for you, where you are free to be who you are. Your therapist is there to listen to you, guide you, and help you overcome life’s challenges.

Generally, you’ll spend the first session getting to know each other, talking about your history and what it is you’d like to work through. From your second session onwards, you’ll get to go deeper, peeling back the layers and all the while learning practical strategies to help you transform and grow.

At Indigo we encourage our clients to have at least 10-20 sessions, because we believe that therapy is a long-term journey of commitment, growth and investment in yourself. After seeing your therapist for a while, you may continue to book occasional check-in sessions as you feel more confident doing life with the knowledge and tools you have gained.

Who is online therapy for?

Everyone is welcome to attend online counselling or therapy with one of our practitioners at The Indigo Project.

Online counselling or therapy via Zoom is an accessible, safe and convenient option for those who are unable to attend face-to-face appointments, or simply prefer to meet online. Whether it be a busy schedule due to work and family, health-related reasons or distance, online counselling can help you.

What issues are suited for online therapy?

Our team of trained clinical psychologists, psychologists, psychotherapists and counsellors attend to a range of common mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, stress, grief and loss, life transitions, relationship issues and more.

A number of practitioners also specialise in areas such as sexuality, gender and identity, addiction, sports and performance, personality disorders and therapy for children and adolescents.

Several therapists also provide services in marriage counselling and couples therapy.

Finding the best psychologist or counsellor for me - where do I start?

We highly encourage you to view our practitioners and use the filtering options to find a psychologist or counsellor who can help you with the issues you are seeking help for.

Meet our therapists and what they can help you with here.

If you need help, our Therapy Matchmakers team will be able to match you with a practitioner. Give us a call on (02) 9212 5469 or email us at [email protected] so we can support you on your journey.

What if I can’t see the therapist I had in mind?

Our therapists typically have capacity to see several new clients each month. However these openings can get filled up fast from those who have been on a waitlist. If there is someone that you particularly want to see but is currently unavailable, we can place you on a waitlist until there is an opening.

If you prefer to attend an online counselling session sooner, our Therapy Matchmakers can help you find an alternative practitioner based on your needs and what you are looking to achieve in therapy.

Meeting a therapist for the first time can feel like a first date. If you don’t connect with your therapist on your first or second session, we’ll pair you with a new practitioner and your next session will be on the house* as part of our Perfect Match Promise.

*Terms and conditions apply.

Can I make an appointment for my child or dependent?

If you are the parent or legal guardian of a minor, you will need to make an appointment online or via the phone.

We have many psychologists, psychotherapists & counsellors who have experience dealing with children and adolescents in therapy. See who can help here.

Someone I know needs counselling. Can I book an appointment for them?

Those who require online counselling or therapy will have to make an appointment directly with The Indigo Project via our online booking form or on the phone. We do not accept bookings on behalf of an individual or couple from a third party unless as part of an insurance plan, support scheme or similar arrangement.

We want marriage or couples counselling. Can we see a couples counsellor together?

Couples are welcome to attend online therapy sessions together with one of our couples therapists.

Do I need to do anything before my first session?

We recommend setting up for your online therapy session 5-10 minutes before it commences. Make sure your computer or phone microphone and video is working, and that you are comfortable and ready to sit through your session uninterrupted.

There’s zero pressure to prepare anything for your first session but if you find it helpful, you can jot down some points about specific things you’d like to work on or discuss with your therapist.

Are my therapy sessions confidential?

Everything you discuss with your therapist here at Indigo is absolutely confidential, and will not be shared unless you or someone else is at risk of serious harm.

How do I pay for my online therapy session?

For first time clients, payment is made via debit or credit card at the time of booking. For returning clients, there are a number of payment methods available such as authorised direct debit or online via the payments link on your invoice.

Who to contact if you are in crisis

The Indigo Project is not a crisis service.

  • If you are in a crisis, if you are experiencing suicidal or homicidal thoughts, or somebody else is in danger, DO NOT use this service.
  • Call 000 or use these contacts for immediate crisis support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week:

Lifeline 13 11 14 - A crisis support and suicide prevention service for all Australians.

Mental Health Line 1800 011 511 - The Mental Health Line offers professional help and advice for everyone. Operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636 - Beyond Blue provide support to address issues related to depression, suicide, anxiety disorders and other related mental illnesses.

Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467 - A free service for people who are suicidal, caring for someone who is suicidal, bereaved by suicide or are health professionals supporting people affected by suicide.

Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800 - A counselling service specifically for young people aged between 5 and 25.

Parentline 1300 1300 52 - Parent Line is a free telephone counselling and support service for parents and carers with children aged 0 to 18 who live in NSW.

What else does The Indigo Project do?

Our courses, workshops and events are designed to transform the way you think, feel and live.

Not ready to commit to therapy? Indigo founder Mary Hoang has created Get Your Sh*t Together, a self-directed digital course for those who want to develop greater self-awareness, tackle stress and anxiety, and learn practical skills to help heal, grow and thrive in life.

Mary has also written a book Darkness is Golden: A Guide to Personal Transformation and Dealing with Life's Messiness that combines her experience in the therapy room with unique audio experiences framed by her research in music psychology.

Available for free download are a number of toolkits to help you combat your depression, deal with your anxiety or transform your relationships.

Although an online counselling practice, The Indigo Project believes in the power of community, and we often host events throughout the year. Keep an eye out for events such as Listen Up, a contemporary digital sound bath some describe as a “soundtracked therapy session”.

We are also available for corporate events, workshops and related projects. Please contact us at [email protected] if you’d like to know more.

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