Coaching Grief and Self Acceptance

by | Jun 18, 2021

This article is part of the No Holds Barred weekly column by Ram Ramanathan. It’s based on questions we receive during our weekly webinars.

Gayathri Sivaraman:

A client asked how soon is okay for me to feel okay after the loss of a parent, how does one respond?


Dear Gayathri,

Grief is possibly the most difficult area to coach, especially if it’s over the loss of a loved one. My advice is not to. If one has to just be silent, be silent. Do not touch or hug. Be empathetic, not sympathetic. Sympathy, especially through body contact, tone and words can deepen grief, as evidenced in scientific studies.

I find the 5 stage Kubler Ross model is the best to deal with grief and loss. It’s on the Coacharya blog A Coaching Model for Everything.

A person experiencing a loss of any kind, physical, emotional, financial, relational, or societal, will go through phases of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Different people go through these stages over different time amplitudes, depending on the kind of loss and how it impacts them, and also often on how others around them impact them. Acceptance is the area the coach can help.

The LASI/SET process works very well with the Kubler Ross model.

Khyati Shah:

A client of mine has had a realization that she has a deep need for validation from others. How do I move her from here to self-acceptance?


Dear Khyati,

80% of my coaching is based on dealing with disempowerment through invalidation. All of us, however much we may refute, require validation.

Maslow’s hierarchy deals with the root cause of invalidation beautifully. You can read more about this in our blog post Evolution in Consciousness & Awareness.

In general. Most people from affluent family backgrounds are in reasonable if not total fulfillment of Maslow’s needs 1 to 3, survival, safety, and emotional validation needs. They all knock at level 4, which is the ego satisfaction level of cognitive validation. Most of us from such backgrounds strive for supremacy, recognition, rewards, and validation in the status of one kind or another. This may start with my toy is better than yours and my dad is bigger, leading to comparison, competition, and conflict be it at school, peer groups, and as we grow up in relationships and financial & societal status.

Every time there is set back in any area on comparison through invalidation we drop down from cognitive to emotional invalidation at level 3. For those who probably experienced some of this from family and caregivers in childhood, this is far worse and affects them unconsciously. Even those who had a happy upbringing would face this later on at level 4. I surely did. I had a great and happy upbringing.

Multiple negativities surface through invalidation. Inadequacy, imposter syndrome, fear of failure, fear of success, inability to delegate, inability to collaborate, etc. Quite often invalidation leads to an attempt to control without substance, leading to abrasive, aggressive, and bully behavior. Most psychopaths and sociopaths reach there, starting with invalidation.

From level 3, if invalidation is consistent we descend to level 2, where we fear for our safety, financial, societal, and relational. When it gets worse, such a sin these days of the pandemic, perhaps with the threat of loss of income, etc, we descent to level 1, one of the survival needs. People who become suicidal are in this state.

The only way I know to break this descent to move higher to level 5 of Self Actualisation in Maslow’s hierarchy. The only way to do this is by expanding one zone of needs to those of others. Most often, what we see as needs are not really basic needs of sustenance; they are wants born out of greed. If we focus on what others or what the universe needs, in addition to what we individually need, we attain self-actualization. This is the only state of acceptance, fulfillment, and validation.

Clients may not necessarily be aware that invalidation is their issue. They may be disempowered by feeling inadequate, unable to take risks, not confident, etc. A coach can explore these experiences using the LASI/SET framework to help them realize the sensation, emotions, and thoughts involved. The coach can then inquire about patterns of behavior, and how they started.

Reframing is the best way to shift invalidation to acceptance and validation. This can be done conversationally. It can be done more powerfully through visualization. NLP techniques of Perceptual Position and Change of State can be excellent processes and can be applied in a coaching framework. I have used the principles of Constellations and Polarities to help the client look at themselves through alternative lenses. Metaphors and stories can help big time.

Working with serious invalidation requires some understanding of psychology, at least to know how it starts and what may be possible pathways to resolution, to be able to gently guide the client, without being directive and solutioning.

A lot of other questions were answered during the past 2 webinars. Watch the full video below, or on our YouTube Channel.

Coaching Questions You’re Too Afraid To Ask

Questions you are too afraid to ask part-2

If you have a question that you want an answer to, please feel free to fill up this 2-minute survey.

Ram Ramanathan
Ram Ramanathan


Ram is the Founder and a Principal at Coacharya. As the resident Master and mentor coach, Ram oversees and conducts all aspects of coaching and training services offered under the Coacharya banner.

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