Grief, unfortunately, is an inevitable stage in everyone’s life. It’s not easy and each person experiences grief in their own unique way. The process varies for each individual. However, most grief follows a typical 7-stage process. Keep in mind that the length of time an individual experiences each stage varies as well as the order of the stages; Additionally, a person may experience more than one stage at a time. The process also often works as a loop with a person cycling back to a stage they experienced earlier. It is okay. Your grief process is yours alone. Do not let others judge you or how you are dealing with your loss.
Here are the typical 7 stages of grief.
Stage 1 – Shock, Disbelief, and Denial
Shock and disbelief are natural reactions to loss, especially if the loss is sudden or unexpected. The feeling of disbelief helps you avoid the pain. It protects you and keeps you from becoming overwhelmed. Emotions are fluctuating wildly during this time and you can experience physical symptoms such as nausea and light-headedness. At the same time, you may experience denial. You tell others that you are doing okay, and managing just fine. You tell yourself the same thing. This step of shock, disbelief, and denial can last for several weeks.
Stage 2 – Pain and Guilt
As the shock dissipates, the pain and guilt set in. The pain is indescribable and feels unbearable, but in order to deal with your loss and eventually lessen your grief, you must go through the process. Relieving the pain with alcohol or drugs may help in the short term but will lengthen the healing process overall as the pain is an integral component of the grieving process.
During this time, you may also experience feelings of guilt regarding things you did or did not do with your loved one, or things you said or did not say. It is a chaotic time, often leaving you feeling like there is no light, but persevere, this will pass. Finding someone to feel comfortable talking with about your feelings can prove to be very beneficial.
Stage 3 – Anger and Bargaining
The feelings of guilt will give way to feelings of anger, anger regarding your situation and why your loved one had to die. The anger can be turned towards yourself or towards someone else.
Also at this stage comes the bargaining. Your mind becomes filled with ‘if statements’ – if only my loved one can come back to me, I will change my life around. It is essential to find healthy mechanisms for dealing with your anger and it starts by realizing that anger is a natural part of the grieving process.
Stage 4 – Depression, Reflection, Loneliness
This is the stage when your friends start thinking you should be getting over the grieving process, that it is time to move on. You might feel able to accept your loss, but are still unable to cope with it. Pressure from those around you to move on with your life can leave you feeling depressed and alone. Take this time to reflect on your past and your life with your loved one. Again, this a natural stage of the grieving process and one that everyone must move through. This stage can be seen as the start of the acceptance process.
Stage 5 – Upward Turn
As the acceptance process starts, you are able to feel some normalcy returning to your life; you are able to focus and organize. The physical symptoms of grief often disappear at this stage.
Stage 6 – Reconstruction and Working Through
As the pain, both mental and physical, begin to dissipate, you find that you are able to think more clearly and make realistic plans for coping with life without your loved one at your side. You will start looking forward and making plans for how to deal with life, both financially and practically.
Stage 7 – Acceptance and Hope
During this last stage of the grieving process, you come to accept your loss and the new reality of your life. This acceptance does not mean instant happiness, but it does mean that you are ready to begin planning for your future, and even experience some joy. Given time, you will be able to reminisce about your loved one, the sadness will remain, but the pain will subside.
Remember, everyone experiences these stages in their own unique manner. This is simply a general guide to help understand the process and realize that what you are feeling is perfectly normal. In the midst of your suffering remember, there is light at the end of the tunnel, even if you do not see it now.