5 Stages of Grief and How to Go Through Them
Grieving is a process. Everyone grieves differently, depending on the nature of loss, and who you are as a person. Grieving over the tragic loss of someone dear to you is also called bereavement.
What is grief?
Grief is a person’s psychological and natural response to the loss of someone. Or something dear. That loss may cause intense sadness or deep feelings of loneliness.
Grief comes in many forms. It includes physiological and psychological symptoms in reaction to the bereavement. And these responses can change as time goes by.
5 stages of grief
Swiss-American psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross introduced the five stages of grief in her book “On Death and Dying” in 1969, which is based on her study conducted on terminally ill patients, and their feelings about it.
The Kübler-Ross model has been widely criticized because people have misunderstood the psychiatrist.
Elisabeth Kübler-Ross also clarifies that people don’t (have to) move from one stage to get to the next, or might not even go through all of these five stages while grieving.
The 5 stages of grief
The first stage is the denial stage. Even if you know someone has already passed and isn’t coming back anymore, acceptance is still far from sight. You still can’t/don’t want to let go. Some people still “see” someone who has died. Still feel the presence, or even hear his/her voice. You feel numb, unmindful of what’s going on around you.
Death, like a thief that it is, suddenly snatches away someone with whom you’ve made plans with, or have spent a life without a hint. So you feel angry and betrayed, which is a natural reaction. Anger is directed either towards the person or at yourself. You feel guilty for things you did or have failed to do before the person died.
READ MORE: Top Five Regrets People Make in Life and What to Learn from Them
Bargaining starts when you make deals with yourself, in exchange for a favor or something. Like you promise yourself you’re not going to smoke anymore if only your x-ray results turn out alright. Or sometimes with God or a higher power if you have religious or spiritual beliefs. Believing that if you act differently, you’ll feel better, or things will get better.
It’s also common to find yourself repeatedly going over things that happened before, and asking “why me” and “what if” questions. Thinking that if you could go back, things could have turned out differently.
Profound sadness and longing are often associated with grief. The pain brought about by these feelings can come in waves and they’re so intense they can drag over for months or even years. You feel life no longer holds any meaning.
Your intense emotions begin to stabilize at this particular stage. Coming to terms with the “new reality” that you can’t walk anymore and you’re probably going to die sitting in a wheelchair. Or accepting the possibility of you getting old alone because unfortunately, you haven’t found the right one for you.
Situations that the faint-hearted would perhaps walk away from. But it’s okay. You got to believe it’s going to be okay. Maybe not today, but the next. There’s a life behind that wheelchair, and you’re not that old yet to give up on finding Mr. Right.
Symptoms of acute grief
- Indescribable sadness
- Deep longing – wanting to be with the person you lost •Constant remembering of memories of the person
- Loss of sleep
These thoughts and feelings are a natural response to a loss. However, grief is different from clinical depression. It doesn’t require any clinical diagnosis, although the two share similar symptoms.
Grief is a personal experience, it can mean differently for different people. And there’s absolutely no right or wrong way for the grieving person to mourn for what’s lost.
Types of grief
This type of grief doesn’t have the usual pattern of how grief decreases over time. If it doesn’t get any better, it only means some things delay or disrupt the healing process. This prevents a person from moving on or returning to his normal functioning, which causes distress and lasting sadness. Complicated grief may be indicated if you continue to feel the following:
- Having trouble carrying out what’s supposed to be normal routines.
- Feelings of deep sadness, depression, guilt or self-blame
- Believing you could have prevented the death or done something wrong to the person who has died.
- Feeling that life isn’t worth living because of that loss.
- Wishing you had died, too when your beloved passed away
Anticipatory grief is grief that comes in anticipation of an impending loss – like grieving for someone important who is sick and dying.
Grieving for someone who hasn’t died and yet there’s a feeling of persistent mourning. Situations that trigger feelings of ambiguous loss:
- Immigration or relocation of family members.
- Having to deal with a terminal illness or a permanent disability.
- Getting diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s. Or a relative who has these conditions.
- Missing a loved one who has been kidnapped.
- End of an important relationship like separation or divorce.
- Putting up your child for adoption.
Exaggerated reactions to grief include anti-social behaviors like withdrawal or disentanglement, phobias, sleep disturbance, and suicidal thoughts or self-harm.
Intentional postponement of grief due to the presence of more pressing matters that are perceived to have an urgent need for attention.
Or situations that supersede the need to grieve over someone or something.
The grieving process
Not everyone goes through intense emotions like grief in the same way. Grieving can affect the way you think and feel, how your body functions, and how you interact with others. Maybe a person can tell you how grief feels. That’s unique to him. Because grief feels different to everyone.
Mental health professionals advise those who are going through the grieving process to confront their fear. Often, the ones left behind are afraid to open the door. Fearing that if they do, they’ll end up drowning in tears or rage, which is unlikely in real life. Allowing others to help you while grieving is a good sign that you’ll keep your balance.
No matter how intense your grief may be, remember that it’s temporary. You can go back to life after grieving – if you only acknowledge and work through your emotions and reactions.
Grieving for someone or something you lost allows you to release the energy that’s meant to the lost person or inanimate objects. In doing so you’ll be able to redirect or reinvent that energy somewhere. And until you grieve effectively, you’ll find redirecting difficult because a part of you remains tied up to what hurt you.
Grieving isn’t about forgetting. Neither drowning yourself in tears. Allow yourself to go through the process of grieving, and live (life) the way your departed loved one would have wanted you to live.
How to Overcome Grief: Taking care of yourself while you grieve
The pain and stress of losing someone can sap your emotions dry. You also have to take care of your physical health.
- Some turn to alcohol or drugs to relieve that pain. Please don’t.
- Talk to a mental health professional who can help you tuck messy emotions away, or deal with unresolved grief.
- Or check out support groups online that offer free website services like grief counseling.
- Make a journal or a scrapbook that contains photos to preserve the memory of your loved one.
- Eat healthily and get enough sleep.
- “Helping others is one way to heal,” said David Kessler in his new book, “Finding Meaning: The Sixth Stage of Grief.”
Your grief is your own. It’s okay to feel numb. In other words, there are healthy ways to grieve. Do so at your own time, at your own pace.