It’s not you, it’s them – how society gets in the way of grief

There are no stages of grief.

Society would have you believe there are five – like gates – that you have to pass through before you ‘finish’ grieving: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

In fact, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross who is often attributed with saying there were, never actually said that. She wrote a book about dying, and has been misquoted ever since.

You may well feel some of those emotions, but you might feel none. There isn’t an order to them if you do, any more than there is a time-frame associated with them. As well as denial you might spend time feeling jealous. As well as anger, you may feel sorrow. As well as guilt, you may feel relief.

Grief, then, is more like a roller-coaster than a flight of stairs.

When someone you care about dies, friends and colleagues – who genuinely mean well – will offer thoughts and platitudes to try and help you feel better. The reality is though, that most of what they’ll say will be unhelpful. They will talk about it, as if there is a ‘right’ way to grieve.

They’re not trying to hurt you, they just don’t know what else to do and say. They want to fix you and your pain, so that you feel better. The trouble is their good intentions can leave you feeling misunderstood, frustrated – even annoyed. So when they say things like “At least you’re still young, you can always get re-married’ or “I know exactly how you feel”, your grief goes underground. You stop talking about how you feel. And then they assume you’re ‘over it.’

This is why it’s time we improved the conversation around death, grief and loss.

Conversations around death and dying, grief and bereavement need to start with recognising that everyone is different. The way I mourn for a loved one will be different to the way you grieve, depending on many things including beliefs and circumstances. But even with all the support in the world, I will never be ‘over it’. To be ‘over it’ suggests I will forget, and that’s not going to happen. What I can do, is survive it and find a way forward from what’s happened, knowing it will always be a part of me. And you can do that too.

There are organisations in the UK who provide free support, and if you’re worried about how you’re coping have a chat with your doctor. In the meantime, you might find this book by Megan Devine useful, or show your friends and colleagues the video below.

Copyright Delphi Ellis 2019


Grief Awareness Training

Many people worry about what to say (and what not to say) to someone who has been bereaved. Whether personally or professionally, at home or in the workplace, if you want to build your confidence around talking to the bereaved, this training may be for you.

Courses can be tailored to suit your organisation and include:

1 hour Q&A –  relevant to your company e.g what to say to someone grieving

Half-Day or One Day workshop in the U.K. at a competitive rate , delivered by a specialist trainer with nearly 20 years in the field of bereavement.

The training incorporates the latest thinking on grief and loss which explores:

  • Why there are no stages of grief (and how that helps)
  • What bereaved people want you to say (and not to say)
  • What helps (and what doesn’t)

Courses can be tailored to organisational requirements. For more information, just get in touch

New Book – Available to pre-order


The 4am Mystery: that’s an actual thing by the way. Even before a global health crisis took the shape of COVID-19, people around the world were finding themselves sleep deprived, awake in the middle of the night.

You might be someone who says, no matter what you do, you just can’t sleep. Sometimes you know why: your thoughts are racing, or a nightmare has startled you into consciousness. Other nights you might toss and turn and, just as you finally doze off, the alarm blares.

Answers in the Dark was written for you.

It explores why you’re awake, how you can manage your mind at night, and what might help if it’s your dream content wreaking havoc.

Drawing on nearly two decades of therapeutic work, research, and an ancient wisdom proven to helpfully manage the mind, Delphi connects the dots between sleep, dreams and our mental health. She particularly highlights the impact of grief and loss on our well-being, which can ultimately affect the quality of our night-time rest – even if no one has died. Her book guides the reader on a journey to make friends with night-time, learning what the dark might have to offer, to achieve a calmer, healthier, happier life.

You can pre-order the book using the button below.