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Grief is a powerful and complex emotion. It is a deep and intense sense of sorrow and is typically associated with loss. Though often associated with death, grief can be associated with many losses, including: 

  • Trauma 
  • Breakups 
  • Sickness 
  • Infertility 
  • Termination

Stages of Grief

Kübler-Ross believed grief occurs in stages and developed the Five Stages of Grief. The Five Stages of Grief include: 

  • Denial (e.g., feeling numb or acting as if nothing happened) 
  • Anger (e.g., experiencing anger, aggression, or madness at a situation) 
  • Bargaining (e.g., contemplating what they could’ve done differently) 
  • Depression (e.g., intense sadness due to the situation) 
  • Acceptance (e.g., pain eases and begins to accept loss).

Pools of Grief

Pools of Grief is an analogy that uses bodies of water to illustrate how people might experience grief, sadness, and pain. The analogy is subjective because grief is subjective. Not everyone will experience or respond to grief the same way. Some people have lakes of grief, while others have oceans and seas.

Grief is Subjective

Grief affects people differently. People typically do not respond to grief in the same way. Oftentimes, people’s grief may get downplayed or invalidated because other people’s grief is worse. WHile it is true that other people have harder experiences than us, it is also true that other people have it easier than us. Some people will have larger pools of grief, whereas others might have smaller ones.

Grief is Subjective

Just because someone’s grief seems larger or more intense than yours does not mean that your grief does not exist. Similarly, just because your grief appears more difficult than someone else’s, it does not mean your grief does not exist. Multiple realities can coexist, and all grief is valid.

Invalidating Grief

When we invalidate grief (whether it’s our own or someone else’s), it leads to difficult problems, which include: 

  • More intense grief 
  • Anxiety, Depression, Trauma 
  • Hopelessness 
  • Loneliness 
  • Health complications 

Invalidating grief also makes it less likely that we will seek help when needed.

How to Validate Grief

Here are some ways to validate someone’s grief (even your own): 

  • Listen to the person 
  • Journal about it or reflect 
  • Show compassion 
  • Empathize Validate emotions 
  • Hold space 
  • Practice self-care 
  • Practice self- and co-regulation techniques


While our physical offices are located in South Loop and Lakeview neighborhoods in Chicago, Illinois for in-person sessions, we also welcome and serve clients for online therapy from anywhere in Illinois and Washington, D.C. Clients from the Chicagoland area may choose in-office or online therapy and usually commute from surrounding areas such as River North, West Loop, Gold Coast, Old Town, Lincoln Park, Lake View, Rogers Park, Logan Square, Pilsen, Bridgeport, Little Village, Bronzeville, South Shore, Hyde Park, Back of the Yards, Wicker Park, Bucktown and many more.  

This page is also part of the Roamers Therapy Glossary; a collection of mental-health related definitions that are written by our therapists.


While our offices are currently located at the South Loop neighborhood of Downtown Chicago, Illinois, we also welcome and serve clients for online therapy from anywhere in Illinois and Washington, D.C. Clients from the Chicagoland area may choose in-office or online therapy and usually commute from surrounding areas such as River North, West Loop, Gold Coast, Old Town, Lincoln Park, Lake View, Rogers Park, Logan Square, Pilsen, Bridgeport, Little Village, Bronzeville, South Shore, Hyde Park, Back of the Yards, Wicker Park, Bucktown and many more. You can visit our contact page to access detailed information on our office location.