The stages of loss - What you might be feeling

Loss is a much bigger word than it looks - may be that someone you care deeply about has passed away, that you and your partner have chosen to live different lives or that your partner has chosen to leave you.

Loss is a process. Feelings are a part of a process so don’t expect the movement to be all one way.

Whatever the situation, you are likely to experience five stages of loss. They may not happen in the same order for all of us - we may not all experience all the stages - and it may be that we feel all of these stages within a very short time. Just know that there is no right or wrong way to process loss your way is the right way!

The stages of loss are:


  • A feeling that this is not happening.

  • Hiding things from friends and family.

  • Not dealing with reality.

Loss; whether it be through the death of a loved one or the end of your relationship, can leave you in a state of shock. You could lose your grip on the real world and feel that this is not really happening.

Facing the future on your own - having to make all the decisions not just for yourself but for your family - can add to your denial. Facing your situation can seem like more than you are able to cope with.

You will probably feel a huge range of emotions and your mood may well change rapidly. You may also resent that fact that everyone thinks that they know how you feel and that they have experienced what you are feeling.


  • Out of control feeling.

  • Overreacting and behaving in an irrational way.

  • Having a short fuse and being overly aggressive (or defensive).

Anger can be out of control. There is a spiralling quality to it; one minute you feel real hatred and plot revenge, the next you can feel insecure and very sad. It may be quite scary how strong these feeling are for you.

What you could do is write to your partner or loved one sharing how angry you are and why. It doesn’t matter that the other person does not see this letter, it does matter that you have found a way to let go.

Try and let your anger go in a way that suits you - exercise can help if that is something you do anyway. Trying something new that challenges you in some way but also talking to close friends or family – they may be feeling the same way you are.


What lies behind this is thinking if she/he did this we would maybe have another chance:

If he/she would:

  • Change.

  • Knew how much I cared.

  • Knew how much I had done for them and the family.

Often we plan in our heads conversations with our ex-partners imagining things we would like to have said, would like to say and what they answer.

We sometimes look at trying to bargain with our ex-partner to get things back to where they were; or just to stop the hurt. Remember, this is part of a process, not a beginning or an end. This, for you, is not the best time to make deals - you may find you are agreeing to anything just for a small short-term gain. In fact, these agreements may make things worse for you, as you may be making promises that you just can’t keep.

Low moods

  • Can’t stop crying.

  • Can’t eat or sleep.

  • Lethargy - just not interested.

  • A foggy head.

  • Feeling very alone/isolated.

This is not going to be an easy time. Loss affects us all in different ways at different times. Sometimes, the sorrow and loss you feel can be hard for you to cope with. You may feel any or all of the feelings above.

You may feel like crying all the time. This is not unusual and often the tears are not just connected to sadness, some other feelings can be reflected in these tears. If you are finding it hard to let out the tears there are a few things you can try; keep a journal - every day spend 10 minutes just writing exactly what you think, talk to someone who gets you and will not ask questions you are not ready to answer.

If these low moods continue it is a good idea to just go to your GP and check out what other courses of action are open to you.


  • The fog starts to clear and you feel more in control of your emotions – you can see both good and bad bits of your relationship.

  • You find that you can more easily cope with what life is giving you.

  • You find that there is hope for the future.

This stage for some of us can seem like a new start with new choices. Relationships seem to settle down, communication with others seems more relaxed.

At each stage what you experience can seem too much and you might feel you are going mad, or you are the only person who has ever felt like this. By giving yourself permission to have these feelings you are accepting that this is a part of a process you are going through.

There is no right and wrong way to process loss you do what you need to do, when you need to do it.  Understanding never takes away the pain or struggle that you are going through but it can help you to acknowledge that this is a process and that you are not on your own in going through these feelings. 

It is worth remembering to try and be kind to yourself. Taking care of your feelings it helps you to move on. Take a look to see if you have a support network around you - are you using those people? Do you need to spoil yourself a little bit? What makes you feel good? It is great if you can recognise that you are OK and that you are moving forward a little bit every day.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Staines-upon-Thames, Surrey, TW18 4AX
Written by Clare Francis, M.A. PG dip BSc (Hons) MBACP
Staines-upon-Thames, Surrey, TW18 4AX

Clare attained her Master’s Degree in Relationship and Family therapy from the University of Hull in 2011. Clare works with families, young people and individuals. Clare also manages a thriving private practise which she currently runs from Twickenham and Staines. She has also worked for Relate since 2008. She is a Member of the BACP.

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