The loss of a loved one is a challenging situation to navigate that comes with an array of complex emotions to sort through. Everyone experiences grief at some point in their lives. Understanding the different stages of grief allows you to move through them with a bit more knowledge and ease. Learn all about the seven stages of grief and mourning below.
Shock is the first stage of grief. Shock typically comes as a result of being surprised or unprepared for the loss of a loved one. It can be incredibly challenging to wrap your mind around the idea of losing someone close to you. Nevertheless, this feeling of disbelief is very common, especially in the beginning stages of grief. Shock is a feeling that is typical with most deaths, aside from someone struggling with a terminal illness such as cancer, where a loss was known to be inevitable. Deaths that were unexpected or came out of the blue will more likely have a reaction of shock when learning the news. There is no set timeline for how long people will experience the feeling of shock. It can last for as short as a few hours or as long as several months.
Denial is another stage of grief that is often a coping mechanism for individuals dealing with loss. In this stage, you completely deny the idea that your loved one is really gone. Blocking out difficult emotions is a natural response to something like death. However, denial materializes in different ways for different people. Some people will deny the loss altogether, while others will simply deny that they are grieving or struggling with the loss. Some people will even skip this stage entirely. Every person’s process will vary and be unique to them as an individual. There is no “right way” to grieve.
It can be helpful for people in denial to go to the funeral or memorial to have some closure and come to the reality of what has happened. Some people cannot accept that their loved one is gone until they are able to attend a burial. However, it is not necessary to rush through the process of denial. It may take time to come to terms with death, and each person’s progress will be different.
One of the most common stages of grief is anger. This stage will often set in after funeral proceedings or memorials once the reality of the situation has finally begun to creep in for everyone. Anger comes in several different forms during this process. Depending on the circumstances of the loss, an individual can direct their anger at others if they feel someone is at all to blame for the loss. For example, if someone was in a car accident, the people left grieving may direct their anger at whoever else was involved in the crash. Another example can include directing anger at a higher power. Many people find themselves angry with God and cannot understand why their loved one had to die. Anger is a frustrating emotion to navigate. Individuals can often misplace this feeling during the grieving process, shifting blame onto people and situations that aren’t necessarily responsible for the loss.
Bargaining is a part of the grieving process that usually constitutes the belief in a higher power. This process is when someone will try to make deals or “bargain” with God. People may try to strike a deal with God if he brings their loved one back. For example, someone who drinks too much may say to God, “I’ll stop drinking forever if you just bring my friend back to me.” This is merely one example, but there are a sea of different bargains people may attempt to make with a higher power. Bargaining is a coping mechanism for people to help deal with the weight of losing someone.
Depression is a stage of grief that can occur at any time during the process and, for some people, will be present the entire time. Emotional withdrawal and deep sadness are typical during this phase. Many people describe depression as a permeating feeling of complete numbness. Individuals may isolate themselves from friends and family during this time and be generally detached and uninterested in social settings of any kind. People will also become uninspired by things that they used to enjoy, such as hobbies and activities that previously brought them great joy. It’s normal to experience feelings of depression while mourning the loss of a loved one.
However, it can be helpful to seek out the aid of a therapist or mental health professional if depression persists for an extended period of time. If you find that you cannot shake the feeling of numbness and detachment for months or even years after losing a loved one, it’s okay to seek help from a professional to cope with depression and grief.
Reconstruction is the stage of grief where individuals begin to rebuild. Living without a loved one is complex and can feel impossible at times, but reconstruction is the part of the process where it is necessary to begin moving forward. This phase is where people often try to go about their regular everyday life again. For example, people have to figure out how to go to work or school each day and get back to enjoying their hobbies. It will take some time to figure out a regular routine that is comfortable, but it is a necessary part of healing. It’s important to continue celebrating birthdays, holidays, and enjoying the presence of family and friends.
Acceptance is the last and final stage of grief and mourning. This part of the process is where you have made peace with the loss of your loved one. Accepting death allows you to continue living your life and moving forward. However, even though you have acceptance, it does not mean that you won’t feel sadness anymore. You may still feel sad from time to time, but you are able to live your life and find moments of pure joy and happiness again.
Losing a loved one is never easy and takes time to process. But now that you know all about the seven stages of grief and mourning, you will at least know what to expect. Soulistic Hospice offers grief support groups in Tucson, AZ, if you are struggling to cope. Finding help and support to aid you in the grieving process makes all the difference.