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Is there therapy for grief? Yes, it’s often called grief counseling. This type of counseling is for those who may be experiencing or have experienced some form of loss — it may be the loss of a friend, a spouse, a family member, or a pet— or the loss of identity such as retiring, empty nesting, or a variety of other circumstances.

What Is the Primary Goal of Grief Counseling?

Grief counseling is a place and space for someone to share what they are experiencing — whether that be thoughts, feelings, actions, or questions with someone about the loss they are experiencing. Many think the goal of grief counseling is for you to hurry up and heal so you can get back to work. Hopefully, that’s the furthest thing from what you would want and are being told by others in your life.

Moreover, grief and grieving can impact people differently. This can largely depend on what culture you are from as well. So, grief counseling is a time and place for you to talk about your loss with an expert who cares, listens, and can guide you through your process of grieving.

Who Developed Grief Theory?

The recognized pioneer in grief and near-death studies was Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. She was a Swiss-American psychiatrist who wrote On Death and Dying (1969) where she wrote about the five stages of grief known as the “Kubler-Ross model.” Due to that original work and many others, Elisabeth has been called one of the “100 Most Important Thinkers” by Time.

Image of a person holding a candle. Representing the light that can come from meeting with a grief counselor. Whether you are in Jenison or Grand Rapids grief counseling can give you hope.

According to the Elisabeth Kubler-Ross Foundation despite many viewing her work as research, it was really a discussion of some key emotional reactions to the experience of dying. Interestingly the “stage theory” that many talk about is really a set of categories “artificially isolated and separately described” to those experiences that can be discussed more clearly and simply.

Kubler-Ross’s work On Death and Dying has been viewed as research. Her model was and still is extremely helpful. However, essentially it was a “collection of her descriptions, observations and reflection on a series of dialogues with dying people.”

Are There 7 or 5 Stages of Grief?

Originally, there were five stages of grief — denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Those stages are essentially our reference point or thought framework which helps us learn to live with the one(s) we lost. In the grief model, they are viewed as tools that help us make sense of what we may be feeling. Previously people were thought to progress through the stages in order. However, that has since been recognized as incorrect. Many times those who are grieving revisit stages multiple times throughout different points in life. Even Kubler-Ross herself repeatedly suggested:

“many of these stages overlap, occur together, or even that some reactions are missed altogether.”

What Are the 5 Stages of Grief in Order?


Denial is a defense mechanism that allows us to guard ourselves against overwhelming thoughts and pain associated with loss. We’re confronted with a new reality and it takes time for us to adjust. Denial is not pretending the loss didn’t happen. It’s a process to take in all of what is happening. It’s struggling with the ability to admit the truth of the reality of your loss.


Anger while grieving is normal. Often when grieving people get angry at themselves for not spending the time they should have with their loved one or for not apologizing for something they said or did. Others get mad a doctors or first responders who were unable to keep their loved ones alive. Some also may be angry at God.

There are non death related reasons for loss too— anger at the boss who fired the person. Some one who is grieving the loss of the ability to walk, or the loss of a limb, or sight or hearing may become angry at others because they still have the ability the grieving person lost. Anger at the spouse who divorced them or the friend who betrayed them. Sometimes anger from grief is taking out on random people in the check out lane.


A good description of this would be us trying to figure out a way to undo something that can’t be undone. Commonly, this may take place before that loss. For example, “if only we went to a different doctor,” or “If I stop arguing with him, the stress will go away and he won’t be sick anymore.” And still yet, it will happen after the loss we have “if we hadn’t driven that way to work then…,” or “If I went to church more then God wouldn’t have done this.”


Depression is a normal response to a loss. Sadness, loneliness, and a loss of hope to continue on after we lose a loved one is normal. Grief has been explained as love with no place to go. It hurts our soul when we lose the ability to love the person we lost. It’s common to experience other depression symptoms too when grieving. We may become less social, personal hygiene becomes less important, maybe we’re sleeping more, we don’t do housework, etc. You may experience various aches and pains and changes in how you sleep.


This is the time when we actually accept the loss happened. We don’t deny it anymore. Our emotions may be swirling around still and that’s normal. In this stage, you may be closer to living your day-to-day routine. This is where you may be able to go to a place you went to before with the person you lost. You might be able to look at a picture of them or hear a song that reminded you of them without crying.

What Are the 7 Stages of Grief in Order?

Sadly almost all of us will experience the loss of someone in our life. Traditionally the 5-step model and 7-step model are similar. The 7 stages of grief model seeks to offer more of a framework to explain the complicated nature of grief. The 7 stages model condenses multiple stages of the more popular 5-step model into one stage. For example, rather than anger and guilt being individual stages, they become one step. Still, other stages are added to such as shock being added to denial and hope being added to acceptance. Furthermore, there are other new stages created such as the upward turn, reconstruction, and working through.

This model for grief makes some kind of sense and order out of what we experience when grieving. Grief does have many dimensions. One person’s experience of grief may be very different from the next. It’s pretty normal to feel all sorts of things when you’re grieving.

Image of a grief therapist in Grand Rapids, MI holding the hands of a person. Representing the support you can get from grief counseling in Jenison or anywhere in Michigan.

Shock and Disbelief

When you first learn about the loss of a loved one you may not believe it. You may have met with them yesterday, or even a few hours ago, and now you learn that they’re gone. You may think the person telling you is lying. It’s just so incredibly painful to hear you or your body may collapse. You might faint, laugh, cry, scream, or wail. Everyone’s reaction is different.


While it may be similar to disbelief, it’s actually its own coping mechanism. You might push those thoughts out of your head. You may avoid people that remind you of the loved one you lost or avoid conversations about the person. Some people may even get stuck in an ongoing state of denial and refuse to admit that anything bad happened. This is rare though.


This is when you find yourself wondering what you could have done to have changed the outcome. You may end up feeling guilty about many different things. Two researchers actually identified six different types of guilt. First was causation guilt. The second is moral guilt. While the third is role guilt. A fourth form, one we’ve heard more about than others is survivors guilt. Grief guilt is when someone thinks they are not grieving well. Lastly, is recovery guilt. You can read more about these forms of guilt identified by two researchers Margaret Miles and Alice Demi here.

Anger and Bargaining

This stage will typically come about after the funerals and cultural ceremonies associated with the death of the individual. Sometimes someone will say to themselves, “well if I do X then I can get them back.” This is common when faced with an impending breakup or divorce. Even though many people do not want to have the emotions they have, it’s necessary in order to release the emotions they’ve been having.


Depression is also where loneliness and reflecting on the loss occurs. This can feel like a deep sadness. This often is when those grieving seek the help of grief counseling. In sessions with a grief therapist, a person will often reflect on what the loved one meant to them, the nature of the relationship they had with the person, and how they can move on in the future without the person in their life.

Reconstruction or Working Through

At this time many people feel as if they are cycling through messy emotions while simultaneously building a new life without their loved one. People are often learning how to live a “new normal.” The hurt or loss may feel fresh and ugly and raw but you know you can’t change it. Even though some people may not be fully able to accept the death or loss, they know that life has to move on.

Acceptance and Hope

Usually, at this stage, you have worked through the most painful and difficult work of grieving. You accept your loved one is gone, or the loss of the job, or relationship and you need to keep living life.

How Long Does Grieving Last?

There’s no set time limit to how long grief lasts. Grief is unique to each situation, person, culture, and kind of support system they have. Grief is now recognized as a cycle that has parts that can be revisited. Previously the grief cycle was thought to be linear and once it was done it was done. Some grieve quickly and still yet others take many years to grieve the loss of a person.

A lot, of course, depends on the relationship you had with the one you lost. Grieving the loss of a job may last less than grieving the loss of a relationship or person. There are those who may grieve their whole life but it just comes in waves or cycles. Someone might go through parts of the grief cycle quickly or skip parts of it.

It could be seeing a dog similar to the one you had once, becoming briefly sad and then you continue on with your walk. You might hear the song your mom played on the piano, you sit and listen to it and experience a few tears and then move on with your day after the song is done. It could be watching others do what you once were able to do. As previously mentioned, there’s no defined time frame for grieving. It’s your process and yours to experience.

What Questions Do Grief Therapists Ask?

Grief therapists start off asking many of the same questions any other counselor would ask when first meeting with you. First, they would ask questions to get to know you and about your background. Second, they would ask collaborative questions helping you create and decide on a goal for counseling. This may be done within the first two sessions with your grief therapist.

After that, they may ask you to tell them about the person you lost. It’s an opportunity for them to get to know that loved one. They may ask you about your health, to make sure you’re taking care of yourself physically. In addition, the grief therapist may ask you about your support system. Therapy of any kind may take different conversational turns but the focus of the questions grief counselors ask will likely surround you and your grieving process.

What Techniques Are Used in Grief Counseling?

Grief counseling techniques are similar to those used to help others with a variety of different mental health struggles. The techniques used also vary based on the theoretical approach to counseling your therapist uses. Common techniques used would be Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), Traumatic grief therapy, Group Therapy, Art Therapy, or Complicated Grief Therapy.

What Are Some Coping Strategies for Dealing With Grief?

Grief counseling is one of the ways someone can cope with grief. There are many other ways to manage the process of grief and loss. Some of those include:

  • talk about what you’re feeling
  • attend memorial services and funerals
  • continuing family traditions even though the person is gone
  • connect with others in your support system
  • write a letter to the person you lost
  • stay busy with hobbies and interests
  • preserve memories
  • understanding that your grieving process is unique
  • choose what you think is best for you
  • communicate to others what you need
Image of a woman laying in the grass with headphones on. Representing the hope that can come after grief counseling with a grief therapist in Grand Rapids or Jenison, MI.

When Should I Seek Grief Counseling in Grand Rapids, MI?

As mentioned, grief can be different for every person. Sometimes the relief found in grief counseling is needed immediately after the loss you’ve experienced. Additional time is needed for some before they’re ready to share their story with a grief counselor. Great Lakes Wellness Counseling is ready when you are  to walk with you through your journey of grief. If you feel now is the time then follow these steps:

  1. Contact us to get started with a free consultation!
  2. Schedule your first appointment with a caring grief therapist.
  3. Start getting support for your grief so you can face the day-to-day easier.

Other Counseling Services at Great Lakes Wellness Counseling Near Grand Rapids, MI

Grief and loss counseling isn’t the only service we provide in our West Michigan counseling practice. Life can be complicated and sometimes there’s more than one thing going on. Great Lakes Wellness Counseling has a team of experts who specialize in a unique area of counseling. Our team of Jenison MI experts offer a wide range of mental health services at our office in Jenison or online anywhere in Michigan.

We offer tailored support for not only women and men, but also teenagers. Some of our specialties include anxiety treatment, couples counseling, and Christian counseling. As well as support for a variety of life’s challenges.