Grief is a journey. Although we wish we could somehow bypass or hurry this journey, unfortunately we cannot and must allow it to happen. We do not go through grief and come out the other side the same person, Grief changes people and we must accept the new ‘normal’ we have become.
Five stages of grief have been identified and while nothing is set in stone as each individual process grief uniquely, here are the characteristics of the stages that people may experience.
Denial is the very first step of grief. It actually helps us survive the loss. When we lose a loved one the world can become overwhelming and meaningless. We are in a complete state of shock and denial, ‘’this isn’t happening’’ is a very normal reaction to calm our overwhelming reactions. For anyone experiencing grief, denial is a temporary response to numb our pain and help carry us through the first wave of Grief.
Anger is an essential stage of the healing process. Do not withhold your anger, feel free to let it out even though it may seem endless. There are many emotions other than anger that you will reach in time, but anger is the most common emotion we are used to dealing with. Anger has no limits – while you may feel angry with your friends, doctors and family you may even become angry with god and why did he allow it to happen. However, with anger the more you feel it, the more you will heal. Underneath anger is pain, your pain. It is normal to feel abandoned and hopeless. Sometimes your anger may also be directed at your deceased loved one. Of course, we know our loved one is not to be blamed however we may resent the person for leaving us or causing us pain. Remember anger is just another indication of how much you love and miss the deceased.
Bargaining, before you lose someone, it seems like you will do anything possible in this world for your loved one to be sparred. It is also a normal reaction during feelings of helplessness to try and regain control through ‘if only’ statements – ‘’if only I had called the doctor sooner…’’ This is an attempt to bargain. Remember that usually guilt accompanies bargaining. We start to convince ourselves that there may have been something we could have done differently to prevent our loved one from passing away, however normally this is not the case and is just your brain overworking during the grieving process.
Depression, after the bargaining stage empty feelings start to present themselves and grief starts to enter out life on a deeper level. The depression stage feels everlasting. It is important at this stage to understand that this stage is not a sign of mental illness and the depression is leading from the loss of a loved one. Sometimes all that is needed is a hug and a few kind words from people that care about you. However, if these feelings persist for a prolonged period of time please contact your GP.
Acceptance, is mostly confused with people saying I am ok with what happened or I feel alright, however this is not the case and the majority of people don’t ever feel ok with the lost of a loved one. This final stage is about coming to terms with the reality that our loved one is physically gone and trying to accept that this new reality is permanent. We will never like it or make it feel ok that they are gone but we eventually have to accept it. A great way to remember our loved ones are with condolence gifts or remembrance gifts our family or friends may have got us while we were grieving. Finding acceptance may just mean trying to simply have more good days than bad. Acceptance means we learn to live again but we cannot do so until we have given grief its time.