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Stages of Grief and Loss Counseling Techniques: Ritual in the Grief Cycle

Researchers (Holmes and Rahe, 1967 ) have studied grief cycle processes and assigned stress levels to items. Loss of a spouse and loss of a child are the highest stress levels. Others that we may not often think about are losses that occur with moving, changing schools, financial issues, and health problems.

We cannot generalize about the grief cycle or expect everyone to process through stages of grief and loss in the same way. For example, loss of a spouse is rated the highest for causing stress, but consider it from different perspectives. A spouse who dies suddenly may cause more of a loss than the spouse who has been ill for some time. There is no road map for grief, and each loss must be examined aside from any others. Couples may experience the same loss, but they may grieve very differently. When one spouse does not understand the grieving process of the other, marital problems can surface.  Different grief and loss counseling techniques are often utilized by therapists to be sensitive to the varying needs of couples going through the grief cycle together.

Grief and loss counseling techniques for couples and families can often find a unifying strength in rituals. Rituals are such an important part of our lives. We often take them for granted and do not even realize that we have rituals, or recognize how they impact our lives. This is also true of rituals surrounding death. Every culture approaches death differently, and every family within those cultures may have its own way of experiencing death. We can make statements and generalize to cultures and groups and how they deal with death and how they ritualistically process stages of grief and loss, but we know many divert from the expectations.

An example of a ritualistic approach to addressing stages of grief and loss is the NAMES Project. The NAMES Project began as a way to affirm the life of every man, woman, and child who had died of AIDS. It was a healing grief cycle ritual where people added squares to a quilt, each square representing a person who had died.

Dr. Judy DeTrude is licensed in Texas as a Professional Counselor (LPC) and a Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) and is an Authorized Supervisor for each of the licenses.


Holmes and Rahe ( August,1967). Social readjustment rating scale. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 11(2).

Walsh, F. and McGoldrick, M. (2004). Living beyond loss: Death in the family.W.W. Norton & Company: N.Y.

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