Grief Counseling: Understanding the 12 Steps

Loss is never easy. In the aftermath of a loss, your body and emotions will go through a range of reactions as you digest your new reality. 

You may be well-acquainted with the five stages of grief, but that’s not necessarily all there is to it. We know grieving can be complex in many ways, and we’re here to help you better under the grieving process.

What Is Grief?

Grief is the deep sorrow and pain following a loss. It can be strong, and when it’s mixed with sadness, some may find grief nearly unbearable. Grief is an uncontrollable process of emotions that everyone experiences uniquely. 

Though grief must run its course, therapy interventions can help support and guide you through it.

Reasons You Experience Grief

People grieve for a range of different reasons. One of the most common reasons people experience grief is over the loss of a loved one. 

Though this may be the most well-known cause of grief, people may mourn an array of other events in their lives, such as the loss of a child who has moved far away or the loss of independence following a physical injury. 

Grief stems from unique instances, but the 12 steps of grief framework can benefit anyone going through the process.

The Previously Known Five Steps of Grief

Before we dive into the 12-step model of grief, let’s go over the five most common stages of grief.

  1. Denial: This phase includes a refusal to accept the reality of loss.

  2. Anger: While you’re grieving, you may experience feelings of anger over your loss.

  3. Bargaining: You may find yourself trying to reverse your loss through negotiation. 

  4. Depression: Once the reality of your new life begins to set in, you may go through a period of severe depression.

  5. Acceptance: Approaching this stage indicates that you’ve gone through the grieving process, and you’re able to move toward normalcy in your new life. 

Different Models Help Us Understand Grief Better

Emotional sequences are individual to every person who experiences grief, so there is no  “correct” way to address them. 

When attempting to understand complex emotions, knowing the 12-step model of grief may help facilitate your unique emotional journey.

The 12-Step Model of Grief

As we walk through the 12-step model of grief, you may see yourself in one or more of these descriptions. Know that emotions may surface as you explore the roots of the feelings you’ve been experiencing. 

After examining these steps, we’ll look at ways you can grieve in a healthy way and begin to heal with professional therapy.

1. Healing Takes Time

Unfortunately, your sadness will not disappear overnight. You’ve probably heard the famous saying, “time heals all wounds.” We prefer the truth that time helps all wounds. 

Allow yourself the time it takes to feel the weight of your loss and move toward acceptance. 

2. Grief Is Universal, But Your Story Is Unique

Almost every person will experience grief at some point in their lifetime. You’re not alone while dealing with these intense, frightening emotions. 

Still, it’s helpful to remember that though others may have endured similar feelings, your story is like no one else’s. You can honor your unique loss during this time while knowing that you are not alone.

3. Shock Leads Into Mourning

When you first receive the news of a loss, your natural response is to enter into a state of shock. This reaction is your body’s way of keeping you stable during the first period of grief. 

You may feel numb and confused during this time. After the shock subsides, you’ll begin to shift into the mourning process. 

4. Grief Can Lead to Depression

When you begin to feel the weight of your loss, it may seem unbearable. It’s not uncommon to experience an extended period of depression during grief. You may begin to feel as if your life is pointless and empty. Rest assured, there is so much to look forward to in life, and we’ll help you find the reasons to keep moving forward. 

Later, we’ll address how you can feel comforted and supported during this depression. For now, know that it’s normal to feel this deep sadness. 

5. Grief May Induce Health Challenges

Your grieving process isn’t merely emotional. Your mind and body connect in more ways than you know. As you mourn a loss, your body may cry out in agony just as your emotions do. 

Consider speaking with your primary care doctor about your health challenges.

6. Grief Is Normal

Understand that grief is normal. You’re not flawed for feeling these intense feelings. Instead of trying to ignore your emotions, it’s healthy to let yourself feel every part of the grief process. 

7. Those Who Grieve May Suffer From Guilt

As you process your loss, you might get stuck replaying certain moments or begin to wonder if you could have prevented your loss. 

These feelings of guilt arise for many people. Be kind to yourself if this guilt appears. Notice the feeling and speak with a professional mental health provider if it doesn’t subside.

8. The Grief Process Includes Anger

Loss reveals what we love. When those things are gone, it’s normal to want to react with severity. Feeling this anger is one of the many natural and necessary steps toward acceptance.

9. Intense Emotions Accompany Grief

As you face the reality of loss, your emotions may fluctuate sporadically. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself escalating small situations for no reason. It’s a natural side effect of your body’s reaction to pain. 

10. You May Feel Lost While Grieving

As you experience loss, you might sink into a place of despair. It’s normal to feel lost as you process this change. 

Though you may feel like you’re in new territory with no map, remembering the past with gratitude can help you stabilize during this disorienting time. 

11. Healing Leads to Hope

As you heal, hope will spark and start to grow in unlikely places. You won’t forget the past, but you will begin to welcome your future.

12. Healthy Grief Affirms Change Through Acceptance

The final step to grieving healthily is to accept that your life is different. As you affirm this change, you’ll naturally move toward feelings of peace and healing. 

How You Can Accelerate Your Grief Healing

You don’t have to grieve in silence or isolation. Let’s look at a few ways you can find respite and growth during this journey. 

See a Professional Therapist While You Walk Through Grief

Talking with a licensed professional therapist may be one of the most beneficial steps you can take to improve your mental health. A therapist can help you walk through the confusing emotions you may be feeling. 

As you talk about the past and your new reality, they’ll help you process your memories, thoughts, and turbulent emotions with grace and structure to provide comfort in this uncertain season.

If you’re looking for a qualified mental health provider, you’ll find help at Mood. Our professional therapists and psychiatric care providers meet you virtually and discuss your treatment plan from the comfort of your home.

Join a Grief-Centered Therapy Group

You may also consider joining a support group that focuses on grief. When you share a room with others going through similar emotions, you’ll know you’re not alone. 

As others share their stories, you can see how each step of grieving impacts people differently. Hopefully, this will inspire you to hold space for your unique grief process. 

Practice Kindness Toward Yourself Through the Process

As you grieve, many emotions may surface unpredictably. You may feel pressure to finish your process within a specific time frame or to begin speaking of your loss with platitudes and language you don’t believe. 

As the saying goes, “you have to go through it to get out of it.” Practice kindness toward yourself as you approach each new step in your grief process. 

How Mood Talk Therapy and Psychiatry Can Help

As we mentioned, seeing a professional mental health care provider is one of the best actions you can take during this time of loss. Mood cares, and we’ve also had experiences with loss and depression. 

We want to make your therapeutic care experience as accessible as possible. Here’s how our sessions work.

How Sessions With Mood Work

At Mood Health, we want to understand your mental health care needs. After filling out a quiz to help us learn about your background, you will select a mental health therapist to meet with virtually. 

Then, your mental health care provider develops a treatment plan that fits your unique needs. If you want to include psychiatric care, you can begin a Mood psychiatry subscription, which provides monthly virtual psychiatrist visits that are affordable and easy to manage.

Final Thoughts

If you find yourself in the middle of this long road, our hearts are with you. Loss is never neat or easy, but understanding the steps and seeking professional help may help you feel less alone. Healing won’t come overnight, but we believe time can bring you closer to joy. 



12 Steps in Grief Process | Dennis Toll

What is grief? | Mayo Clinic

Finding Help During the Grieving Process | Gilbert Memorial Park

12 Stages of the Grieving Process (There’s More Than 5??) | US Urns Online