At some point in all of our lives we will have at least 1 encounter with grief.
Grief may include losses such as the death of a loved one, loss of a job, the loss of health or any other change that alters life as you know it.
Each person who faces grief experiences it differently. It doesn’t follow any timelines or schedules. However, there are some commonalities in the stages of grief and loss that each person may encounter over time.
The five stages of grief are the most widely known, however there are several others that exist as well, including ones with seven stages and ones with just two stages.
The five stages of grief are:
Not everyone will experience all five stages, and the stages are not in any order. Again it’s different for each person. You may remain for months in one of the five stages but skip others entirely.
Stage 1: Denial
Denial is one of the stages of grief that includes you trying to make sense of it all. You are in a state of shock and disbelief. Denial is your way of letting in only as much as you can handle. This is a common defense mechanism and helps numb you to the intensity of the situation. As you begin to accept the reality of the loss you are unknowingly beginning the healing process.
Stage 2: Anger
Be willing to feel your anger, although it may seem endless. Anger is hiding many of the emotions and pain that you carry. Anger might be extended and redirected at other people, such as the person who died, your family, at the doctor or towards your old boss. You may even aim your anger at objects. Not everyone will experience this stage, and some may linger here. As the anger subsides, however, you may begin to think more rationally. Anger is a strength and it can be an anchor, giving temporary structure to loss.
Stage 3: Bargaining
In the bargaining stage of grief, you may find yourself creating a lot of “what if” and “if only” statements. It’s also not in common to promise or to make a deal with your higher power in return for relief from the grief. Bargaining is a line of defense against the emotions of grief. It helps you postpone the sadness, confusion, or hurt.
Stage 4: Depression
During the depression stage empty feelings present themselves and grief may enter your life on a more deeper level. Whereas anger and bargaining can feel very “active,” depression may feel like a “quiet” stage of grief. In this stage you may experience sadness, and a lack of energy. You may feel foggy, heavy, and confused. Depression may inevitable However, if you feel stuck here or can’t seem to move past this stage of grief, talk with a therapist who will be able to help you work through this period of coping.
Stage 5: Acceptance
Acceptance is often confused with with the notion of “Being all right” or “Ok” with what has happened, however, this is not the case. Acceptance doesn’t mean you’ve moved past the grief or loss. It does, however, mean that you’ve accepted it and have come to understand what it means in your life now. Look to acceptance as a way to see that there may be more good days than bad, but there may still be bad — and that’s OK.
The key to understanding grief is realizing that no one experiences the same thing. Grief is very personal, and you may feel something different every time. You may need several weeks, or grief may be years long. Seek help if you want to learn ways to manage symptoms and for finding a sense of assurance in these very heavy and weighty emotions.