The Five Stages of Grieving

The different stages of grieving are universal and experienced by people from all walks of life. Mourning is a response to the loss of a valued being, human or animal. Elisabeth Kubler- Ross ( 1969) wrote about the five stages of grieving.

In grief we spend different lengths of time working through each step. Grieving is a personal process that has no time or limit, or a right way or wrong way to do it. We often move through each stage before achieving an acceptance of death.

Many people do not experience the stages in the order listed below, which is okay. The key to understanding the stages is not to feel like you must go through every one of them, in precise order. Instead, it’s more helpful to look at them as guides in the grieving process — it helps you understand and put into context where you are.

1. Denial and Isolation – This is a defence mechanism that buffers the initial shock. We can block out words and hide from the facts. It is a temporary response which carries us through the first wave of pain.

2. Anger- As the masking wears off , reality of the pain emerges. The intense emotion is deflected and expressed as anger. The anger may be aimed at strangers, family or friends. It may be directed at the deceased loved one. Rationally we know they are not to blame. Emotionally however we may resent the person causing us pain for leaving us. We often feel guilty for being angry, which makes us more angry !!

3. Bargaining- The normal reaction to feeling helpless and vulnerable is often to try and gain some control.  If only questions flood your mind. Regrets are just a way of trying to reason and protect us from the painful reality.

4. Depression- Two types of depression are associated with mourning. The first is reactionary, associated with the practical implications. Worries about the future, and our grief. The second is more subtle and in a sense more private. It is our quiet preparation of separation , bidding our loved ones farewell and pure sadness.

5.Acceptance- Reaching this stage of mourning is not afforded to everyone. This phase may be marked with withdrawal or calm. This is not a period of happiness but maybe making peace with the loss.

Coping with loss is ultimately a deeply personal and singular experience — nobody can help you go through it more easily or understand all the emotions that you’re going through. But others can be there for you and help comfort you through this process. The best thing you can do is to allow yourself to feel the grief as it comes over you. Resisting it only will prolong the natural process of healing.

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