Loss and grief are two things everyone will experience at some point in their lifetime. Grief is a normal emotional reaction to loss. Types of losses may include: death, learning of a terminal illness in yourself or loved one, divorce, loss of a job, pet, or home. Although grief is natural and universal, no one person handles it the same.
An essential aspect of healing is to allow yourself to feel, experience and welcome all of your reactions and emotions. The 5 stages of grief will help you make sense of where you are in your healing process. Remember, these stages can be experienced in any order, at any time after a loss occurs.
1. Shock and Denial: This stage of grief helps us to guard ourselves against the initial truth and depth of the loss. This rejection of reality is a response and emotional protection that may last for some time. Once the effect of the loss is recognized, shock and denial lessen.
2. Bargaining: During this stage there may be a great amount of guilt and regret experienced. One may begin to obsess over the “what ifs” and “should haves,” coming up with ways in which the loss could have been prevented. Considering the great power of thought, it is vital that this stage of grieving is dealt with appropriately or it could become a halting disturbance to the healing process.
3. Depression: After the acknowledgement and reflection of the loss and its impact, depression may be experienced. This is one of the most immobilizing stages of the grieving process. One may experience frequent crying, feelings of loneliness, difficulties sleeping, appetite disruptions, withdrawal from regular activities and isolation.
4. Anger: This stage is triggered when one’s confusion about their loss leads to feelings of abandonment and defeat. Grievers may begin to question a higher power or foster resentment toward the person or things involved in their loss.
5. Acceptance: In the course of this final stage, the idea of loss becomes much more tolerable and understood. Grievers are able to rationalize their thoughts and refocus their attention on establishing effective coping styles for the future, rather than dwelling in regret about past moments. During this stage many people develop new personal perspectives on life and death.
Loss is a tremendously trying path to travel – Elttila is here to support you on this path! Going through these normal, necessary stages is the first step to establishing a strong basis for optimal healing. It’s important to understand that there is no permanent resolution for grief; to some extent you may always experience emotions surrounding your loss. However, there are methods of managing your mourning that will help relieve your stress, depression and devastation. Visit the Elttila Resource Center to learn more about how to cope with loss and ease grief.
Written by Brianna Colbert, MA, LLPC.