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Commemorating Loss with Joy

In a commonly cited grief model (Kubler-Ross, 2005), it is noted that we move through 5 stages of grief, which can include denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance of a loss. These steps are not sequential, but could occur in any order, and not everyone who encounters a loss or a life-threatening/-altering event experiences all five stages.

An idea that has been particularly successful after finally accepting the loss is starting a new ritual to commemorate the loved one or the day of the loss. Being creative about ideas and inviting friends and family who are supportive can turn a loss into a deeply healing and bonding experience. Be careful to make this a joyous occasion remembering the individual’s life or the loss as a celebration.

Additional thoughts on handling loss:


    • Talk to others who have experienced loss.
    • Speak of the meaning of the loss to you, the ways in which you will miss the deceased.
    • Seek support directly from those that are able to give it. This might be a family member or friends. A hug may be important.
    • Stay with a routine, stick to a schedule, even if you feel you are just going through the motions.
    • Recognize the feelings for what they are rather than why they are. Knowing what the feeling is can help in dealing with it.
    • Use writing, art, and music to let out your feelings and thoughts.
    • Be forgiving and patient with yourself. It is all right to make mistakes or lose your concentration.
    • Be good to yourself. Take the rest you need, the walk you enjoy, the gift you would like.
    • Give yourself time. Time does heal, but how long it takes is an individual thing.
    • Seek guidance from a source that can offer you both wisdom and empathy, such as a spiritual leader (pastor, priest, rabbi, etc.).

Do not:

    • Try to make major life decisions too quickly.
    • Numb your pain with depressive chemicals such as alcohol or other drugs.
    • Deny your feelings.
    • Isolate or hide out from yourself and others
    • Expect every day to get better. Accept ups and downs.

If you are experiencing the loss of a loved one and desire a trusted and safe place to assist you in the healing process, CCCOC therapists would love to work with you and your family. Take the first step at 312-573-8860.

(Adapted from Colgrove, et al., 1991)

Colgrove, M., Bloomfield, H. H., & McWilliams, P. (1991). How to survive the loss of a love. Los Angeles, CA: Prelude Press. This is a very readable and practical handbook. It is applicable to a variety of losses in addition to death. It is the sort of book that you can pick up and read in sections as you need it or as it applies to your situation.

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Kübler-Ross, E. (2005) On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief Through the Five Stages of Loss, Simon & Schuster Ltd, ISBN 0-7432-6344-8

Dobson, J. (2012) When God Doesn’t Make Sense. Tyndale House Publishing, ISBN-13: 9781414371153.

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Cornerstone Counseling Center of Chicago