Dealing with the passing of a loved one is a tough and painful process. There are a lot of emotions that surface during these times. Some people may experience extreme sadness, confusion, and anger. Some people may withdraw themselves completely from their normal activities. Everyone has their own mourning the loss of a loved one. The ultimate goal is to work through those emotions and to find that light at the end of the tunnel towards acceptance.
The 5 stages of grief is a model developed by Swedish psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and grief expert, co-author David Kessler. The goal of this model in a message from the co-author himself on grief.com is to frame and identify what we may be feeling. Of course everyone isn’t going to experience these emotions in exact order. But it is a good teaching tool to help become more apt in coping with loss.
The 5 stages of grief come in different cycles: denial, anger, depression, bargaining, and acceptance. As mentioned earlier, everyone isn’t going to experience these emotions in this order. By taking a more in depth look into these emotions will give you a better understanding of what you or someone you care about is feeling during this time.
1) Denial: Denial is usually the first of the 5 stages of grief. During this stage, the person is experiencing the shock of it. The person hasn’t accepted the reality of the situation. According to Psychcentral.com, denial is a defense mechanism that causes us to numb our emotions. We tend to block out words, thoughts, and just hide. Thoughts of helplessness begin to set in and we think to ourselves, how am I going to make it without this person. This response is temporary and it helps us with the first bout of pain.
2) Anger: This stage begins after, the denial fades and the pain starts to resurface. The anger comes from our vulnerability and it is expressed in this manner. This emotion may be directed at insentient objects such as a vase, chair, table, etc. Sometimes family and the people closest to us, even complete strangers are targeted.
3) Bargaining: This feeling of helplessness is more than likely a need to regain control. The statements of if only begin.
- If only we did something sooner.
- If only I was there and not here.
Sometimes we may make deals with ourselves to a higher power. This defense is a smaller approach to shield us from the reality of the situation.
4) Depression: One of the toughest stages to battle, depression brings us back to the present moment. This is where we begin to ask ourselves, Is there a life without this person? Why should I go on alone? What’s the point? We must remember that this type of depression is not a mental illness; it is okay to feel this way. Losing a loved one isn’t something you bounce back from; it isn’t something that can be fixed in a day. According to Kessler, if grief is a process of healing, then depression is one of the many necessary steps along the way.
5) Acceptance: This final stage of grief doesn’t mean that you are “OK” with the situation. It means that you have accepted the reality that your loved one is no longer here on Earth. This is also the stage where we realize that this is the new norm we must live in. We have to readjust and realize that we can’t live life the same way as if our loved one was still alive. We have to acknowledge our roles, reassign to others, or sometimes do it alone.
The five stages of grief is a deep personal emotional experience that we all have or will have to endure someday. Sure you are going to have some good days and some not so well. If you give grief its proper time you will be able to reconnect with life and above all live again.