Grief and Coping: This is what happens to your body after a loss

  • Mourning: a brief overview
  • That Phase model according to Kast and coping approaches
  • Conclusion

Losing a loved one or animal takes an intense toll pain of loss with himself. How you mourn personally is natural completely individual. In order to better understand the process of mourning, a distinction is made in mourning psychology several phases of mourning, which are often passed through. This can also be thought of as a kind of mourning task.

The process of mourning: Kast’s 4-phase model

Mourning takes place individually for everyone. The perspectives and feelings related to the feeling of grief are included very personal and varied. In order to better understand the feeling of grief, researchers in grief psychology have been working on it for years. In psychological mourning research, the phase model is best known, which, as the name suggests, divides mourning into several phases. Here a distinction is made between different explanations. This includes, for example, those Elisabeth Kübler-RossVerena Kast, Yorick Spiegel and George Bonano. In this article we introduce you the Model by the psychologist Verena Kast before, which is divided into four phases.

The fourfold Mourning Stages Model can help those affected and their families to navigate the grieving process to understand better. The process is characterized by a clear beginning, namely the loss of a loved one or animal. How exactly this beginning develops must be considered on a case-by-case basis. At the end of mourning, almost as a goal, there is one reorientation. It is important to note that each of the phases only exemplary how long it lasts, how it develops in detail and how intensively it is perceived depends, among other things, on one’s own personality, the circumstances of the death and the relationship to the deceased person.

The first phase of mourning describes the “Dont want to believe it” and lasts from a few hours to several weeks. The death of a human being or a pet is always shocking and hurtful, even if it was perhaps already foreseen due to a serious illness. It is perfectly normal for the first reaction Helplessness, desperation and helplessness includes. One can hardly imagine life without this person. The phase is often characterized by a kind of incredulous rigidity or a disturbance to the point of apathy. The shock of death can be so severe that many people experience a loss of control or even a breakdown. Frequently go with it physical reactions such as restlessness, an increased heart rate, sweating and nausea or vomiting. Do you want a person who is in this phase help, you can do this in different ways. It is important to always communicate directly with the person, offer your help and ask what you can do. Uncomplicated actions such as taking care of everyday errands or helping with arrangements relating to death are often useful. The latter could be, for example, the organization of the funeral or funeral service. Be there for the grieving person, listen to them if they want to speak, and show them that any feelings are okay.

The other three phases and possible coping aids

Subsequent to the first phase, the model contains the phase of “erupting emotions“. The incredulity and apathy that are often expressed at the beginning turn into a wide variety of feelings. These can, for example Anger, anger, pain, fear, sadness or even joy be. Questions like “Why is it hitting me?” or “How could he*she let me down?” on. Possible occurring guilt the grieving person can direct against themselves, but also against the deceased person. How intense the feelings are usually depends on how close you were to the deceased. All feelings that arise have a right to exist and should not be suppressed, as in the worst case they could lead to permanent sadness and depression. Allow emotional outbursts when they occur and recognize them as part of the healing process on. When feelings of guilt arise, it is advisable to acknowledge them but not reinforce them. Possible help in this phase, problems are expressed and experiences or memories shared. As an outsider, you can inspire the grieving person to start something that can be some kind of everyday help. Such help could be, for example, diaries, painting, walks, relaxation exercises, yoga or baths.

Book recommendation: ‘It’s okay when you’re sad: why sadness is an important emotion and how we learn to move on’ – watch here

That “Find and separate” characterizes the third phase of mourning. It can last weeks, months or years. If something is lost, you automatically either consciously or unconsciously start looking for it. In mourning, this search refers to real people, life with them and the Shared memories. During this phase, it is often recognized that mourners are adopting habits of the deceased and holding on to memories over and over again. Remembering good experiences can help to ease the grief. During the intensive confrontation with the lost person it can to a painful, but at the same time beautiful encounter feeling come. In some cases, the dead may be spoken to because the person’s presence is still felt. There is a process of Searching and finding takes place, up to the point of separating again enough. This is necessary in order not to remain in grief and to face life positively again. The focus of mourning work here is to deal with the deceased person and their death. It is important that you talk about all past experiences. It can help to confide in someone and yourself to let timeto revel in the memories. This makes it easier to say goodbye. Mourners often develop suicidal thoughts during this phase. In this case, it is once again particularly important to continuously accompany the grieving person. Basically, it often helps grieving people if you are patient, listen, take them seriously, and don’t push them to accept the loss. If the first signs of reorientation appear, you can actively support and offer assistance as an outsider.

The last phase describes the “New self and world reference“. This can only begin after you have lived through and spoken out the pain and any other feelings that arose, and said goodbye to the deceased. Peace and quiet can now be found within. Mourners realize that own life goes on. As a rule, the deceased remain a part of one’s own life for the rest of their lives and live on in thoughts and memories. Over time, it becomes easier to deal with the grief and make your own plans again. If you have previously had a grief counselor, it may be helpful at this point to say goodbye to that person and to realize that you no longer need that help. It’s important to yourself allow for possible relapsesto remain sensitive to them and to ask for help again in an emergency. If you, as an outsider, recognize changes in the grieving person’s relationship, it helps if you approve and support them. New things should be accepted by both sides. As a mourner, do you notice that you long-term support or regular exchange would advocate, in an open exchange with your grief counselor, you can certainly agree on a slow termination or reorganization of the grief counselling.


The phase model can give an assistanceto better understand yourself and/or others as you grieve. It becomes clear which feelings can arise and how important it is to process the grief and not to suppress it. Open Conversations with confidants represent a large part of coping with grief. It is important not to see the phases as fixed points, but rather as an individual process. Warn researchers explicitly before that it even could be harmful to stick strictly to the phasesotherwise feelings of severe disappointment or not making progress can accompany grief.

In a bereavement situation, you always have the opportunity to ask a specially trained person to help you Bereavement counseling or a bereavement psychologist to claim something. You can get grief counseling, for example, via the Federal Association of Bereavement Support eV Find. Due to the very different grief events, they usually bring a very high degree of empathy, flexibility, patience and openness and help you to cope with the grief.

While the phase model is still advocated in current research, there are also numerous opposite positionswho consider such models to be overly simplistic. Instead, the thought of mourning often appears as a task to be accomplished; instead of phases then becomes of mourning duties spoken. In addition, of course, there is various forms of grief. If you don’t mourn in phases, but rather in waves or in a completely different way, you shouldn’t let yourself be unsettled: Everyone processes a loss differently and any kind of grief is okay.

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