The 5 Stages of Grief: How to identify them in a tarot reading

In Life Experience, Tarot Tipsby David Harvey13 Comments

Grief and Tarot Reading

During my daily card draw on The Golden Thread Tarot app  (which I highly recommend) I drew the 5 of Cups reversed. The description is about acceptance, moving on and finding peace. I got to thinking that a lot of my clients come to see me as they have experienced some type of trauma in their lives and are going through the stages of grief. I started to do a bit more research on the 5 stages of grief and came across this great article – When I was reading the article I started to see a lot of parallels between the stages and various tarot cards.

The article is mainly referring to the loss of a loved one but grief can take many forms.

IMG_4955In a tarot reading, if somebody was in the middle of a traumatic experience you might expect to see The Tower, 9 of Swords or maybe even the Death card.

The stages of grief are as follows , but please note that there is no time period for each stage. You may well find that you pass through one quite quickly but then find yourself back at the previous stage further down the track.


Denial is the first stage and it’s an important stage as it helps us survive the loss. When we experience this type of loss we are in a state of shock. It’s basically the universe’s way of letting in only as much as we can cope with at that time. We tend to just get on with life and go numb. You will slowly start to question yourself and this is subconsciously the start of the healing process.

IMG_4958In terms of cards to look out for you could see The Moon as this card can represent illusion and a long journey – you are about to start on a very long road of healing.

You may also see the 4 of cups which could be a person going through the motions and not being prepared to let any feelings or emotions in.

You may also see The Hanged Man popping up as it could feel like you are in a state of limbo.

Perhaps you could also see the 2 of Swords as card can be about avoiding conflict and putting on a blindfold so you don’t have to face the world.


We often think of anger as a negative or unnecessary emotion but it’s an important part of the healing process. It’s important that you let your anger out, in a healthy way. You could find yourself feeling stuck in this place of anger ,but the more you confront those feelings and accept them the quicker you will heal. Anger may be directed at friends, God, doctors or even yourself.

We go through this emotion as it gives us a structure and anchor when our world has been turned on its head. You could have that feeling of being lost at sea so you need something to hold on to.

IMG_4959When it comes to tarot we could see the 5 of Swords which shows anger and resentment and it really represents a lose/lose situation.

We could also see this as The Knight of Swords and where the Knight is headed may well show who that anger is directed at.

Perhaps you could see Justice (reversed) as it just won’t feel fair that you are in that situation.


It’s very common during a prolonged illness that you try to bargain. Maybe you offer something to God in return for saving your loved one. When you have lost a loved one you may progress to offering something in return for the pain to go away such as promising to go to church every week if you can just wake up to find that this is not real. What if? If only? are common questions that arise during this time.

IMG_4960You could also find guilt is partnered with bargaining. There is a danger of raking over the past and we go on to find fault with ourselves. Cards that could present the bargaining or guilt phase could be 6 of Pentacles which shows a man offering something to those in need.

Perhaps you would see the 6 of Cups as you will find yourself reminiscing about times gone by.

Or maybe you will see the 9 of Wands where you have built a wall around yourself and you still have great hurt coming from the past.


Attention moves to the present. We feel empty and find ourselves absorbed by grief and sadness. It can feel like you will be stuck here forever but we have to remember that things will get better. I often get drawn to the 3 of Swords as this represents heartbreak, but we do have to remember the this storm will pass and the light will return at some point.

IMG_4961There is a difference between mental illness depression and depression following the loss of somebody. You are in a very depressing situation but I liked what was said in the article “If grief is a process of healing, then depression is one of the many necessary steps along the way.”
The tarot cards that could represent this stage could be 3 of Swords, 5 of Cups or maybe even The Hermit, showing that you are withdrawing from life and on a healing journey.


Acceptance is not to be confused with being OK or being ‘fixed’. Life will probably never be the same again but you can definitely recover from a loss. Accepting the reality is the key and then working out how to piece your life together one step at a time and learn to live with it as the new norm. Acceptance might mean that there are more good days than bad. During this stage you might find yourself starting to reach out to friends and again investing in their lives as well as your own. This stage is represents movement, change, growth and evolution. Give grief its time but don’t be afraid to move on when you are ready.

IMG_4962For me cards that can represent this are 8 of Cups – the figure in the red cape moving on and leaving a lot of emotions in the past under the light of the moon.

You may also see The Hermit as during this whole journey you will definitely have learned some lessons and looked inwardly for answers.

The tarot cards can be very literal and perhaps you will see the 10 of Swords – I always get drawn to the sun rising in the background and bringing light to the darkness.

IMG_4963Grief is one of the most challenging and emotional experiences we can have in our human lives. There are always lessons to be learned from each experience that we have. If somebody has been through all these steps and has started to move on you may see The Star, which is a lovely healing card.

You might also find The Tower (reversed) which shows that you have been through the destruction phase and are about to start rebuilding your life.

I hope you have found this helpful. It’s a tough topic to write about. I actually found myself getting quite emotional reading the article then writing the post. However, there is comfort in knowing that no matter how painful it is at the time, it does get better.

If you have any questions or comments about this, or any other tarot related topic, I would love to hear from you

Download your detailed 6 month tarotscope here.

Powered by ConvertKit


  1. That’s sounds an excellent article, David . I found that a similar article helped me many years ago when it was most needed. I’m really impressed with your insights using Tarot and would love to use it in my own practice. Thank you!

    1. Author

      Thanks for the feedback Annie. I’m glad that you found it useful. I actually found the original article really enlightening and it’s helped me relate to clients who are going through these stages.

  2. Pingback: The Hit List - Frankly Minty Clean - The Tarot Lady

  3. Pingback: The Hit List – Frankly Minty Clean - The Awakened Network

    1. Author

      Thanks Lana. That’s really kind of you to say. I’m glad you found it helpful X

  4. thanks David Hester I have gotten at less 1 of the cards out of ever group but now it is time to move on but some how things keep rolli g back. It
    look like short of moving out of state things won’t move on but I am hopfull.

    thanks again

  5. I read for my daughter and all the Cards you write about she got. I know she was in a dark place and needs help and we talk about it. I’m so glad you write this article because what you wrote is true. All those cards are accurate when it comes to depression and when a person going through inner demons.

    1. Author

      You are welcome. I’m so sorry that your daughter is going through a hard time. I hope that the cycle changes very soon for her.

  6. I am finding this article three years after you wrote it. I thought this was a fascinating psychological approach to the Tarot. Helping people is what Tarot is about and it hadn’t really occurred to me that people may want to heal through Tarot, not just ask black and white questions or get a “feel” in a certain situation. This was a great lesson. I found this article because I live with resentment and I Googled, “What card in Tarot represents resentment.” After reading your article I spread for myself and got the 5 of cups, the 5 of swords and the Hermit reversed. Thanks for posting this very insightful discussion!

  7. Hi David,

    I can so relate to your article and the Tarot cards. I got all of the ones you mentioned at various times dealing with grief when my husband was ill and then died. I also got the 10 of Wands on a frequent basis before he died. This represented looking after my husband at home until he died, which was very difficult, to say the least.

    I also received The Hermit after he died for some time. This represented a couple of different things. Firstly, learning to deal with the situation on an inner level and secondly, it represented me actually going into “hermit” mode. I didn’t socialise for a very long time after my husband died because I found it difficult to do anything without him as we always went everywhere together and did everything together. I couldn’t even watch TV for over a year, and still can’t watch programmes that we used to watch together.

    Shortly after my husband died, I always got the 3 of Swords, 10 of Swords and 5 of Cups. I also frequently got the 6 of Cups. This always came up when I was thinking about my husband and the good times we shared, tearfully reminiscing and wishing desperately that he was still alive.

    The only card that I haven’t yet received is The Star.

    1. Author

      Thanks for sharing your story Pandora. It’s amazing how the cards can tell our story and hopefully guide us.

      I’m sure your star moment will come. Life can be very sad and hard but there is always hope. X x

Leave a Comment