Befriending Grief: #UsapTayo for Grief Awareness Day


20 August 2023 

Written by: K Ballesteros
Graphics: Jia Moral

As Filipinos, we live with loss and bereavement, especially as we deal with various natural disasters. The grief that greets us at different points in our life can be a difficult and uncomfortable emotion that everyone must handle differently. Whenever we experience loss – whether it’s the loss of a loved one, the end of an important relationship, or drastic changes to one’s life situation – grief is a natural reaction. Despite how common and natural grief is, experiencing grief and going through the grieving process is not easy. Grief Awareness Day is an invitation to learn more about grief and grieving, how to provide support to our loved ones who are grieving, and to recognize that grief is a highly individual process that we can also prepare for, and seek support during. 


Describing grief 

While sadness is the predominant emotion associated with grief and the process of grieving, other physical sensations and emotions can also come into play. When we grieve, we can experience denial and disbelief on top of our sadness [1]. We can also experience shock and numbness – the inability to feel anything – as part of grief. According to Mind, a UK-based mental health organization, feeling numb can help us process difficult and complex emotions at a pace that we can handle [2]. On the other hand, others can experience feeling overwhelmed by their emotions. If this happens, it is important to remember that grief can become less intense over time, and as we learn to adapt to our situation. 

The five stages of grief [1,2,3] or the grief cycle describes distinct and common experiences following loss and bereavement. The cycle includes: denial, anger, depression, bargaining, and acceptance. Going through each stage in the cycle can help us acknowledge our grief, and describe our experience and emotions. While each stage is distinct, it is important to note that the grieving process does not progress in a linear fashion; individuals might go through each stage at different rates, depending on our situation. Others might find themselves vacillating between different stages of grief before moving to acceptance [1,3]. 


  1. Denial: Any kind of loss will require an adjustment. During this stage, our minds adjust to the new reality in which we find ourselves, including new information and painful memories. 
  2. Anger: While we think of anger as an extreme emotion, this stage of grieving allows us to find an emotional outlet through which to process and express overwhelming emotions. According to Dr. Jodi Clarke from VeryWellMind, “anger allows us to express emotion with less fear of judgment or rejection”. 
  3. Depression: Once we begin to understand our experiences, our loss may begin to feel more present and more unavoidable. During this stage of grieving, we may feel more comfortable isolating ourselves, becoming less sociable, and less inclined to look for support. 
  4. Bargaining: Many Filipinos rely on religion and religious rituals and practices to help cope with grief. During this stage, we might find ourselves bargaining with a higher power, in a bid to change our situation. At the center of this stage is the feeling of helplessness against the situation. 
  5. Acceptance: The ability to accept loss does not mean that grieving is finished. The final stage of grief means that we no longer resist our reality and situation, but that we are able to finally get to grips with our new reality.  

Other models of grief are longer, proposing seven (7) stages instead of five (5). Additional stages include reconstruction and working through, and the upward turn.  

  1. The Upward turn describes a stage in grieving during which we begin to adjust to the new reality of our loss, and the pain associated with the loss has begun to feel less intense. At this stage, there is more space for calm in your daily life, as you work through the loss.  
  2. Reconstruction and working through describes the stage in grieving during which we begin to take actions to move forward with our lives. During this stage, there is more capacity to work through any issues that might have appeared after the loss. 


Moving through grief

While grieving can feel like an impossible task at the onset of loss, there are ways to find comfort, and to seek support. One immediate recommendation is to resist the temptation to suppress or ignore negative, difficult, or uncomfortable emotions. Acknowledging the experiences and the emotions as they arise will help us grieve in a healthy way, whereas ignoring or suppressing these emotions can lead to depression or anxiety [5]. Other self-care techniques suggested by Mental Health First Aid (2022) are the following:  

  1. Stick to a daily routine. Find a routine that you can sustain in the early days of processing grief. This can help structure the new reality that we enter after loss.
  2. Restrict or avoid alcohol. 
  3. Maintain hobbies and activities that bring you joy. 
  4. Express your feelings through journaling and talking with loved ones. 
  5. Plan ahead for special occasions that might be difficult after loss. These might include birthdays, anniversaries. 
  6. Join a support group. If you are able to, find a support group of people who have gone through the same loss. Their presence and stories may help you feel that acceptance down the line is possible. 
  7. Socialize. Do not self-isolate. Try to stay connected with members of your support group. Tell your support network what you need, so that others might be able to provide this support. 

For this year’s Grief Awareness Day, let us find ways to support those of us who are going through the grieving process. Kaya tara na, #UsapTayo! 


Session Questions

  1. Have you ever experienced grief? Have you ever grieved a loss in your life?
  2. How do you comfort yourself when you grieve? 
  3. How do you support your loved ones who are in the middle of grieving? 





What is bereavement? 
July 2019 
Mind: for better mental health


National Grief Awareness Day 


Jodi Clarke
15 March 2023 
How the Five Stages of Grief Can Help Process a Loss 


Mental Health First Aid USA
15 November 2022
Three Ways to Process Grief 


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