Grief is a set of emotions including a person’s or a situation’s perceived loss, as well as any incident that alters a person’s physical, emotional, or spiritual reaction to the world around them. Other than death, we can grieve for a variety of causes. When we lose a job, a relationship, an opportunity, our health, our safety or security, our independence, our hope for the future, and many other things, we can grieve. In this blog, I will discuss 7 stages of grief that normally people pass through.
Shock (or emotional numbness) is the first stage of grief that follows a loss. The experience of shock can last from a few minutes to a few weeks or months. Shock is a defence mechanism that affects the mind and body, preventing you from processing all your feelings at once so you can recover. Shock acts as an emotional buffer to protect you from the reality of loss until you’re ready to deal with it.
Denial is the first stage of grief and it’s a type of protection for your mind. It allows you to escape from the painful reality of what has happened so that you can begin to cope. Even if it feels like denial can last forever, eventually it’s important to move on from this stage of grief.
Let yourself feel anything and everything, but know when you need help.
Bargaining is the attempt to make a deal with a higher power that would improve your situation. For example, if you were to lose a loved one, you may bargain with God or Allah by promising to attend church every week, if only he or she could be brought back from the dead.
Regardless of whom bargaining is made with, it’s an attempt to postpone grief and delay accepting the loss. Many people believe that “if only” they had done something different, such as providing better care for a loved one who died of cancer, then the person wouldn’t have died.
Although grief can be overwhelming at times and cause people to feel out of control or helpless at the moment, eventually they move past this stage and accept reality.
Guilt is a normal response to any type of loss.
The guilt you are experiencing may or may not be healthy. People often feel guilty for things that are out of their control, such as the death of someone else. It can also be very easy to blame yourself for things that were completely out of your control. While this guilt can be upsetting in the short term, it generally resolves itself with time and distance from the situation.
If your guilt is more related to how you handled a situation, it will likely resolve itself as well if you have done everything in your power to help remedy it. For example, if you are experiencing guilt about something you did or didn’t say in an argument with a loved one before they died, make sure that you’ve apologized or tried to explain yourself first. You may not get the peace that comes with closure right away but over time these feelings will likely subside.
The next stage of grief is anger. This is another normal reaction to losing a loved one. Anger may be directed at yourself, the situation or the person who has died. It can also be directed at friends and family members, medical personnel or even those uninvolved. Perhaps anger is directed toward God. You may feel that you are asking “why me?”
It’s important not to rush this stage of grief and make decisions you will regret later (like quitting your job). You also shouldn’t avoid dealing with your feelings of anger as this can cause it to build up inside later on in life and manifest itself in other ways such as depression or anxiety disorders.
A person in this stage will, unfortunately, be very unhappy, and will often find it difficult to go about their day-to-day life. They might feel like they want to give up, or that there is no use in trying. Depression may appear to be an unavoidable outcome of any loss. However, if you feel stuck or unable to go past this stage of mourning, seek help from a mental health professional. A therapist can assist you in getting through this difficult time.
Acceptance is the final stage of grief. A common misconception about acceptance is that it means that everything is okay and that you are happy with what has happened. This isn’t true. Acceptance does not mean happiness; it means an understanding of the situation and an ability to move forward, even if it’s only a little bit at a time. It’s not necessarily “feeling better” or have gone back to your old self; it’s simply coming to terms with what has happened, being able to talk about it without breaking down or needing support, and starting to live in the present again. You may begin looking toward your future instead of constantly focusing on your loss.
There are seven stages of grief and it is important to go through the stages to have a healthy grieving process.
We will not be linearly experiencing the stages of grief, nor will we experience all stages. Additionally, some stages may last longer than others. Ultimately, it is important to remember that the grieving process is unique to each individual and there is absolutely no specific timeline for us to follow. Although there are seven general stages of grief listed below, our progression through these steps may occur more quickly or take longer than expected. It’s important to be patient with ourselves during this painful process and avoid judging our progress in comparison to others. Most importantly, if it lasts longer a visit to a therapist can ease the process.