by Thorin Munro

A few weeks ago I was soundly stabbed… and as I stared in disbelief at the map and re-read and re-read the orders, I felt numb, stupid and mad at myself for missing the hit. It still smarts a little even now …

This is an experience, which will probably be familiar to any regular Diplomacy player, because no matter how skilled you are, your turn to be another’s breakfast eventually arrives! Some past experience in the field of counselling is where I learned about the Grief Process. And I figure it would be worthwhile jotting down a few notes as it is very applicable next time you suffer the blade of a treacherous Diplomat!

Normal Stages of the Grieving Process

Grief is our natural reaction to loss. These reactions can cover a wide and confusing range of emotions. Experts have tried to list "the stages of grief" so we can better understand the process but there is no specific order or timeframe for the process.

Mapping the stages helps to understand the overall trend and the types of emotions we may experience, despite the overlaps and complexity. This awareness in itself can often assist resolution and integration of the loss and open movement into whatever comes next.

In the game of Diplomacy I mentioned, it took me a number of hours before I mentally said to myself, “hey, this is the grief process, I’m in shock!” This was almost a surprise realisation, as emotions and anger were in full flight. That simple realisation in itself was enough to help me begin to re-orientate my thinking and start to think about some next steps to take. I even found I chuckled at myself, to have been ‘caught out’. Ironically it is often hardest to detect when you yourself have entered the grief process.

Shock and Denial

The typical initial reactions are shock, a feeling of numbness or unreality, and possibly even denial that the event has occurred. In this initial phase, our minds begin to adjust to the loss.

Because this is such a difficult time, thinking about or experiencing grief constantly is too painful, so we go back and forth between believing the loss has happened and a sense of denial or unreality. It's critical to give yourself time to adjust to the loss and to come to terms with it. For major losses, this stage can last weeks or longer.

In an email game of Diplomacy, at least you have the privacy of your own home, and some time, to absorb the shock of a stab. It is much harder to handle in a FTF environment. A good way to work through this phase is simply to talk about the event. This helps defuse the shock and anger, and also helps start to get your head around the new state of play.


This is a time of chaos for individuals experiencing grief at the loss as we try to adjust to the new situation. During this phase, we are intensely aware of the reality of our loss, but will try almost anything to escape it.

This is a period of exhaustion and intense emotion, and the grieving person will often experience mood swings, sometimes dramatic ones. Normal emotions at this stage include anger, extreme sadness, depression, despair, and extreme jealousy of others who haven't suffered the same loss.

In a Diplomacy game this stage will be evident in off balance emails, whether angry and accusatory, pleading, guilt-loaded or even complete silence. In the extreme, personal abuse or dropping out are poor form and happily not that common.

During this stage, we begin to understand all the implications of the loss and start to rebuild. Experience and self-awareness speeds progress as does discussing the event and your options with a dispassionate third party - if your partner is like mine, they will quickly tell you to “get a grip - it’s only a game”! Maybe she’s not that dispassionate after all!


This stage is also known as acceptance or reorganization. The disrupted stage we go through comes to an end as we find a new balance. This newfound balance allows for new plans and strategies to be produced and a willingness to make the best of the current situation.

Skilled Diplomats never give up, and will be able to rapidly progress to this stage of the process. You will recognise them in their tenacity, perseverance and competence under pressure. Their ability to keep communication flowing and options on the table are key.

“That which does not kill me, makes me stronger.”

I should add that the pain of the stab remains, but the intensity of it recedes. We begin to experience hope again. The game and success begins to seem possible again…

The process of taking a hit and then getting over it, is the way we each learn and develop skills! But maybe in a Diplomacy game it is better to be giving other players grief rather than getting it your self!

Thorin Munro
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