THE STAGES OF GRIEF
Grief is an emotional process we all experience after a significant loss in our lives. Grief may be triggered by the death of a loved one, divorce, job loss, all of our children leaving home (empty nest), or even death of a pet.. No matter what the loss, most of us will experience the following sequential stages of grief, all though these can certainly vary in some people.
STAGE 1: SHOCK
The emotional shock of losing someone or something dear to us is really no different than the state of shock after physical trauma, in both we shut down. Shock protects our bodies/psyches, from what we are not yet ready to feel, a protective “timeout.” Shock is of short duration, measured in hours, days.
STAGE 2: DENIAL
We tell ourselves this can’t be true, can’t be happening, can’t be real, there must be some mistake. Denial, like shock, is usually of short duration.
STAGE 3: BARGAINING
We tell ourselves, God, that if we just do this or that, we won’t have to suffer this horrible loss, feel this pain. Bargaining is usually a relatively short grief stages unless we get stuck there by telling ourselves we can do something to avoid the pain of the next stages of grief.
STAGE 4: ANGER
We may get angry at the Drs. who could not save our loved one, angry at God, angry at ourselves for not doing something that might have prevented this loss, even angry at the one who died for leaving us. We may even displace our anger onto some innocent friend or family member. In anger, we often utter the words, WHY ME? The anger stage is not normally a lengthy process.
STAGE 5: DEPRESSION
We may not be able to sleep, have changes in appetite, not want to engage in activities with others, have no energy, have overwhelming feelings of sadness, cry a lot, and sometime even feel hopeless. Depression is usually the longest and most difficult stage of grief. Ironically, what brings us out of our depression is finally allowing ourselves to experience our very deepest sadness.
STAGE 6: ACCEPTANCE
We come to the place where we accept the loss, make some meaning of it for our lives and are able to move on. If we have lost a loved one, we often transition from a physical relationship to a spiritual one with that person and are able to remember and be thankful for the good times. If there has been a tragic loss, either from some horrible disease or an accident, people often find a way to reach out to others who are experiencing the same type of loss and give help and comfort. In this way we are able to make meaning of the loss for our lives.
Grief that last over a year is considered complicated grief and requires the help of a mental health professional. Therapy and/or a grief support group can help us move through the normal grieving process. It is important to reach out, for if we try to get through our grief alone, we may self-medicate. Unresolved grief is the root of many addictions.
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