Editor’s Note: In any caregiving situation, we remind our readers to remember the Caregiving Basics: Listen, Pray, Respect the Grief Process and Preserve the Dignity. This post is an overview of Respect the Grief Process.

Grief is a normal and natural process by which a person makes a healthy adjustment to any significant loss in his or her life.  Any significant loss (for example, the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, a broken marriage, deterioration of health, a shattered dream) triggers the process.

Grief counseling professionals tell us there are several stages that people move through when we experience a significant loss. Most people experience some or all of the following emotional responses when they lose anything or anyone important in their lives. Swiss doctor Elizabeth Kubler-Ross first offered this model in 1969 which has evolved from a 5-stage model to a 7-stage model:

1. Shock
2. Denial
3. Depression
4. Anger
5. Fear
6. Bargaining
7. Acceptance

Some understanding of the grief process will help caregivers:
1. Know what to expect.
2. Be more comfortable with the grieving person.
3. Respond more effectively by being present, listening, and accepting the person’s various emotional responses.

Five tips for helping those who grieve:
1. Listen to their story.
2. Don’t give advice or try to “fix it” for the person.
3. Remember that grief is a process and a process takes time.
4. Don’t offer your story unless asked. This is not about you.
5. Avoid clichés like “God doesn’t promise a rose garden.”

For more reading on helping others during their grief, please see our Respect the Grief Process page.

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