1.-Shock or Shared Death Experience: We’re lifted into an alternative state of consciousness at the moment of our loved one’s death. This can last days or months; it affects our ability to eat and sleep. We are not completely in our bodies. With awareness, we can use this as a time of sacred connection; a sort of vision quest consciousness provided by our departed loved one.

2.-Spiritual Crisis (manifesting as anger and blame): Why did my loved one leave? Where did they go? Why am I still here? Did God take my departed? I’m angry at a universe/God I once trusted. This is a time of searching for spiritual meaning; often a time of leaving one’s trusted church in search of new answers that resonate as true. We may explore meditation, Buddhism, Hinduism, alternative Christianity or spend time in nature seeking answers. This is healthy and part of the healing process.

3.-Guilt: Every grieving person has a guilt story about their departed. This is the ego’s need to feel in control of uncontrollable events: If I caused their death by not taking them to the doctor soon enough or by not loving them well enough (or a million other irrational reasons) then this universe is not as scary because I’m in control. It’s essential to ask open-ended questions and write the guilt story; write it raw. And then share it. In my grief workshops, this is the most powerful moment when everyone reads their guilt story and we see the commonality of irrational guilt. When we can recognize this guilt as untrue in someone else’s story we can see it as untrue in ours as well.

4.-Surrender: In this stage we’re able to embrace the mystery; to say I don’t know exactly how this universe works or where my departed is but I’m open to exploring. I surrender my departed’s physical presence and open to a new connection with them as a divine being – a soul on the other side whom I still have a relationship with. I don’t have all the answers about what to do next or where my life is taking me – but I’m open to exploring options, to new ideas, to trusting in a new kind of divine order that works for my highest good even when I don’t understand it. This is a major opening in the healing process; a willingness to let go of old ideas and beliefs that aren’t serving us and go on the journey of learning and healing that grief is calling us to. We embrace the pain of grief as our new companion on this journey of self-discovery.

5.-Shift: Eventually we’re able to lift above the ego view into a new view – the soul’s view. From this perspective, we can see this death as a soul agreement made with our departed. We establish a new relationship with our departed. We’re grateful that they loved us enough to break our heart wide open and push us to grow exponentially – which is the gift of grief. We embrace the journey of soul growth. We eventually thank our departed for being our greatest spiritual teacher in this lifetime; for breaking us wide open. We shift into a new perspective that gives us grace, understanding and gratitude for our departed and for the new lessons we’re learning. We accept the pain of grief whenever it washes over us – knowing that it is our spiritual teacher breaking us wide open to love more deeply. We’re able to eventually create a life/career with purpose and new meaning as we shift into this higher perspective that grief has fueled within us.