The term “grief” is often associated with the loss of a loved one. But grief can also be experienced after other losses including losing a job, going through a breakup or being diagnosed with a medical illness.
Although you may be aware that there are several stages of grief, do you know how to identify one stage from the next? Below are the five stages of grief as well as how to identify them.
#1) Denial and Isolation
Denying the fact that a loss has occurred is normally the first reaction when dealing with grief.
Oftentimes, we rationalize our emotions by thinking about how illogical the reality is. “There’s no way that that can be happening” and “he was too young to die, this can’t be real” are common thoughts that can happen throughout this stage.
Denying the situation can help buffer the immediate shock of the loss. Besides helping to numb our emotions, we can start to feel isolated and believe that there is no purpose to life
After denial and isolation occur, reality emerges – and with it, anger.
While we are not yet ready to deal with our pain, anger can be directed at friends and family, strangers or even inanimate objects.
This emotion may be directed at our deceased loved one, even though we know that he/she is not to blame. We may be angry or resentful for that person causing us pain or for abandoning us. Sometimes, being angry can cause feelings of guilt – which in turn creates more anger.
In order to postpone the inevitable and save us from pain, we may start to make deals with a higher power and try to regain control.
A series of “if only” statements may accompany the bargaining part of grief, such as “if only we had stopped smoking earlier” or “if only we had been more attentive to our health.” Used as a type of protection from the painful reality, this stage is often accompanied by guilt.
Two different types of depression often accompany grief.
The first is a reaction of practical implications relating to the loss and predominately involves sadness and regret. Those around us can ease us through this phase with kind words and reassurance.
The second type of depression, experienced more privately and subtlety, involves quietly preparing ourselves to say our farewells to our loved one.
Acceptance is a part of the grief process that’s not always attained by everyone.
Although identified with signs of withdrawal and calm, this stage must be kept separate from depression.
The most important thing to remember? Everyone experiences grief differently. The best way to get through grief is to envelop the stages as you experience them. Doing so will help you on the pathway to healing.