Grief and loss are two common experiences in life, although they are two that no one can be prepared enough for. The pain that accompanies grief and loss can be unbearable.
Emotional and mental pain can surface in challenging ways when someone you love passes on. No matter how close you were with that person, there is no right or wrong way to grieve. Luckily, there are helpful and healthy ways to cope as you are learning to heal from the loss of your loved one.
Understanding the stages accompanying grief and loss can serve as valuable knowledge during your healing journey. Grief can knock you off of your feet. Whether the loss was unexpectedly tragic or expected, understanding these stages can prepare you for any current or future losses that you may experience.
Grieving the Loss of a Loved One
Grief is a normal emotional response to how an individual copes with loss. Grief, in any case, can be challenging to understand and work through.
Experiencing the loss of a close friend, family member, or intimate partner may be one of the most difficult circumstances a person has faced or will face in their lifetime. Although loss is a natural and unavoidable condition of life, no one can genuinely adequately prepare for what it will be like to lose a loved one.
Grieving is not linear. Grief occurs in stages and yet, in no particular order. It is valuable to view grieving in stages because the first few stages are the most difficult. Grief can be crippling, making it seem impossible to even get up in the morning. To view suffering in stages is to understand that, like everything, healing will take time.
The Five Stages of Grief
It is essential to recognize the distinct stages of grief, as these stages are a valuable way to become educated about general grief and loss. Coined by Elizabeth Kübler Ross in 1969, the five stages of grief include:
It is most common to experience shock and denial as one of the very first stages of grief. Denial occurs as a response to your life changing in an instant. You may feel as if the news of your loved one couldn’t possibly be true or that your loved one is going to walk through the door at any given moment.
Although denial might seem harmful, it is a necessary part of our ability to cope. Denial acts as an aid in pacing feelings of grief, which reminds you that you need time to process it and work through it. Once initial feelings of denial begin to fade, the healing process begins.
Anger can manifest in several different ways. A grieving person may feel anger towards themselves for wondering if they could have done something different. They also might have anger towards someone else and may take out that anger on close friends and family.
There might be feelings of dissociation in this stage, especially when your life feels like it has shattered at the loss of your loved one. Although it may not seem like it, anger may surface as a way for you to attempt to bring yourself back to reality.
Individuals experiencing this stage of grief may ask themselves, “why me?” or be angry with what or whomever they consider their higher power. A person must allow themselves to be angry. The more you honor your feelings now, the more likely they will dissipate on their own with time.
This stage involves making deliberate bargains with whatever higher power the individual believes in. Bargaining is a way of giving in to false hope. Unfortunately, there is no negotiation to be made regarding death. Nonetheless, this stage is still typical in the healing process.
Guilt might accompany the experience of bargaining. Bargaining rarely provides any solution for coping with your loss. It is just another step in the healing process.
Depression is an expected response to grief and one of the most societally accepted forms of grieving. Losing a loved one can make you feel numb, isolated, and empty. You might withdraw from social functions or not want to get out of bed at this stage.
For many, depression might be the longest-lasting stage of grief. It’s not that you even enjoy being alone, but you are too overwhelmed by talking and socializing with others. Depression helps to normalize experiences of emotional attachment, recognizing fear, uncertainty, and sadness.
Acceptance is typically the last stage of grief, where a person’s emotions begin to stabilize in their healing journey. You might come to terms with the fact that your loved one will not return. Although it is crippling, it helps to accept it. It can be encouraging to think of how your loved one would want you to live—entirely, happily, and presently.
Adjusting to loss is never easy. Since grief isn’t linear, there will be good days and bad days. Healing can begin by accepting the love, compassion, and support from your friends and family. The pain will always be there to some extent, but you have to continue to engage in your own life experience and live to the fullest.
Grief and loss are incredibly difficult experiences to endure, address, and move on from. Although inevitable, losing a loved one is one of the heaviest burdens that a person can experience. Whether the passing of your loved one was tragic or expected, no one can ever truly prepare for the experience of grief. One essential way to cope with your loss is to acquaint yourself with the five stages of grief. These five stages will help you tie in your psychological reactions with concrete reinforcement for your mental state as you work through your grief. West Coast Recovery Centers recognize that grief, loss, and other trauma can contribute a great deal to the development of mental illness and physical distress. Our treatment program offers individualized care alongside intentional therapies to help you work through challenging experiences of grief and loss. Please call us today for more information at (760) 492-6509.