Chances are, you know about the stages of grief. The stages of grief has been around since the late 1960s, thanks to the book On Death and Dying. Grief takes place in five stages, all in a particular order. You probably know what the stages are, but let’s give you a refresher.
This one is pretty straightforward. When you hear someone is dead, you don’t believe it. “I just saw him a week ago and he was fine.” This can especially be the case if the person was healthy and died due to external forces rather than a disease they were battling for a while. But even if they had a disease, you may not believe it, as you thought the person had a little more time.
The next step is anger. You feel frustrated that your loved one no longer is with you. You may be angry at God, angry at the universe, or angry at yourself for not spending enough time with them, or you may feel like you had some responsibility in their death. For example, if you were in a car crash and you survived, but your friend died, you may be angry at your survival and have survivor’s guilt.
When you think of the bargaining stage, you may imagine it going like this. A person prays, and says, “God, if you bring my loved one back, I’ll serve you more,” or something to that effect. If your loved one isn’t dead, but has a terminal disease, bargaining comes in the form of asking the doctor if there is a secret, experimental cure you can give the loved one.
However, bargaining comes with more than just that. Bargaining can mean creating scenarios in your mind about what you could have done better. “If I would have not gone out that day.” “If I could have been closer.” These little outcome changes can make you think that you can somehow change the present, even though they cannot.
Another step of grief is depression , and it’s self-explanatory. The idea is that you’re upset that your loved one is lost. You may cry all the time, or feel emotionally numb. The common depressive symptoms are there. You may not sleep at all, or oversleep. You may feel like the world is falling apart around you. However, eventually that depression goes away and leads to the final step below.
The stages of grief ends with acceptance. Acceptance doesn’t mean you’ve “gotten over” one’s death; grief can still be a sore spot for the rest of your life. However, you’ve accepted that your loved one has passed on, and you know you have to continue with your life without them.
The stages of grief were written as a general experience someone may face, not a universal rule. Everyone experiences grief a little bit differently, and because of that, someone may feel like they’re experiencing grief wrong should their grief may not happen linearly.
Some people may go back and forth between anger and depression. Or they may feel like they’ve accepted the loss, only to relapse. Some days, the pain of grief hits you hard, and other days, it does not. You may feel nothing with grief at first, only to lose it later on.
Everyone is different, and life is not as simple as those stages make it out to be. Grief can have its own unique path, and those dealing with grief should realize that grief in a unique path is normal, and not something to be ashamed of.
Human emotions are complex, and you often don’t go through a set path. Sometimes, it’s a roll of the dice with how you feel.
If you’ve lost a loved one, you may wonder how you can deal with grief. Here are a few ways you can.
Some people may think that showing their feelings is a sign of weakness. Don’t believe that for a second. It’s important that you let all of your feelings out in a way that expresses how you really feel. If someone gets upset at that, that’s their own problem.
Some people accept their grief quickly, while others may grieve for a while. It’s not a race. You should grieve at your own pace and not try to rush it.
With that said, life goes on. You still need to work, provide for your family, and live life. However, some people’s grief prevents them from doing that. What can you do about that? If you feel like you need to seek help, talking to a therapist can be your best option. They won’t tell you to get over your grief, but show you ways you can cope and express your grief in a healthy manner.
While you're grieving, some people turn to alcohol or drugs to numb the pain. This is not a good idea. They can provide a release, but they may get a hold of you, and their grip may be hard to break. Always make sure that you’re not succumbing to that if you’re dealing with grief.
If you’re religious, your pastor may be able to help all the questions and feelings you may have.
If you're not religious, talking to support groups of people who have the same beliefs as you may be able to help you in a time where you’re unsure about yourself. You can be able to go through grief without losing or changing your faith.
Grief is a difficult time for many, and it’s okay for you to feel all the emotions that come with it. Grief is not a linear timeline, but instead a whirlpool of emotions, some of them reoccurring. And sometimes, it’s okay to let that whirlpool take you away.