- Cancer Information
- Advanced cancer
- Understanding grief
- How long will it last?
- The ‘up and down’ nature of grief
The ‘up and down’ nature of grief
People sometimes speak of stages of grief, but grief isn’t something you begin one day, move through step by step, and come out from unchanged. Rather, the stages reflect a range of emotions that you may move between.
For most people, grief involves ups and downs. They may move between focusing on the loss (crying, missing the person, feeling pain) and going forward (returning to activities, learning new skills, forming new relationships). This can feel chaotic, but both the ups and downs are part of grief.
Most people find they slowly learn to cope better with their loss. Don’t worry if it seems like two steps forward and one step back. It is common to have feelings of intense grief again and again. The experience is often described as like being on a roller-coaster, but it can also be thought of as a series of cycles or waves.
Kate Jurgens, Bereavement Coordinator, Southern Adelaide Palliative Services, SA; Gabrielle Asprey, Cancer Support Consultant, Cancer Council NSW; A/Prof Lauren Breen, Psychologist, Curtin University, WA; Rev David Dawes, Manager, Spiritual Care Department, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Rob Ferguson, Consumer; Karen Hall, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council SA; Joanna Mangan, Psychologist, Cancer Council Queensland; Kate Reed, Nurse Practitioner National Clinical Advisor, Palliative Care Australia; Maxine Rosenfield, Counsellor and Educator, NSW.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.
Click below to download a PDF booklet on this topic.
Emotions and cancer
People who are affected by cancer in some way can experience a range of emotions, that can be very challenging to deal with at times. Learn more.
End of life
This information may help you better cope with end of life, or support someone who may be dying with cancer