Grief Process

Most of us will experience a significant loss during our lives that leaves us heartbroken, confused, and hurt. Understanding that these feelings are universal and that there are well-documented and researched steps to get us through the process of grief ultimately allows us to heal. While the process will not be the same for every individual, knowing that grief occurs in certain stages can give some comfort to those trying to recover from the death of a loved one.

 

What is the Grief Process?

Author Elisabeth Kübler-Ross first proposed that there were five stages of grief in her book On Death and Dying. As stated earlier, individuals may not experience these stages in this exact order, but you can think of them more as a guide to what you may be going through and feeling. An individual may skip a stage, spend a longer time on one stage, or experience a stage slightly differently than described below, but that should be no cause for concern. As long as there is room for hope throughout, healing can occur.

  • Grief Process Guide
    Common Reactions to Grief and Loss
    List of 20 common physical, emotional and behavioral reactions to grief and loss.
  • View the Guide

The grief process has no timetable, and you should never feel pressure to “get over it.” Suppressing that sadness is possibly one of the worse things you could do. Many individuals will seek professional therapy or a lot of help from loved ones to assist in their healing, while others would rather go through it alone. Finding whatever works for you is the most important thing, and hopefully the stages of grief outlined below will help you or a loved one better understand the grief process.

It is important to reiterate that the Five Stages of Grief are more fluid than set in stone. Some you will experience briefly, some you may never experience, and some you will feel like you will never get through. Each grieving process is different depending on the individual, and it is important to remember that it is not simply something to “complete.” The loss of a love one may forever linger with you, but it must not prevent you from continuing to live. Learn more about the Five Stages of Grief below.

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Grief Process Topics

Grief is a normal and natural response to loss. Everyone experiences loss and grief at some point in their life. The more significant the loss, the more intense the grief and bereavement is likely to be. As you deal with your loss, remember that there is no order or timetable for grief. Everyone grieves differently, but there are healthy ways to cope and heal from the pain. The following are the most common forms of loss and topics related to grief. Select a topic below to learn more about the grief process.

Death of a Child

Articles on how to cope with the loss of an unborn baby, infant or child.

Death of a Sibling

Articles on how to cope with the loss of a brother or sister.

Depression and Anxiety

Articles on how grief can transform into clinical depression and anxiety.

Death of a Parent

Articles on how to cope with the loss of a parent or grandparent.

Death of a Spouse

Articles on how to cope with the loss of your husband or wife.

Faith and Spirituality

Articles on how faith and spirituality can assist with grief recovery.

Death of a Pet

Articles on how to cope with the loss of your dog, cat, fish, bird, or other pet.

Other Losses

Articles on the death of a friend, coworker, and losses not covered in the other topics.

Holidays and Special Days

Articles on grief associated with holidays, birthdays and other special days.

The Stages of Grief Explained

Here we will take a look at the five common stages of grief in their familiar order. Once again, think of this more as a guide rather than a step-by-step manual that you must follow. There is no “correct” way for an individual to get through their loss.

 

Stage One: Denial and Isolation

When facing a difficult situation like the death of a loved one, it can be a natural reaction to deny the reality of the loss. This works as a buffer to the initial bad news. It creates a temporary sense of separation that gets the individual away from the facts. This reaction may help in getting through the first phase of pain. 

 

Stage Two: Anger

As the initial effects of isolation and denial disappear, reality starts to set in. An intense emotion – anger – emerges to deflect our true feelings of grief. The anger may be directed at friends and family, complete strangers, or even inanimate objects. It may even be aimed at the recently-deceased loved one. This is not necessarily rational, but we might feel they are somehow to blame. Guilt over this anger may then cause even more exasperation.

The doctor who could not cure your loved one’s illness may also become a target for your anger. Doctors are exposed to dying and death nearly every day, but that does not make them invincible to the struggles of their patients and those who care for them. You may ask the doctor to go over the details of your loved one’s treatment and illness, so you can comprehend all of the options. Understanding this may help calm any resentments that are still lingering.

 

Stage Three: Bargaining

In this stage, there is a certain sense of trying to regain some control. You may start to come up with a list of “what ifs.” “What if I was a better person; maybe this would not have happened.” “If only we had discovered the illness earlier.” You want to go into the past to prevent the loss from happening. There may be bargaining with yourself regarding your own pain in the grieving process.

Bargaining is part of trying to avoid feeling the pain of the loss. You may go in and out of this stage many times in many different forms when thinking about your loved one. It is important to acknowledge the grief to avoid prolonged mourning.

 

Stage Four: Depression

There are a couple of different kinds of depression that are associated with mourning. You will start to think about the practical elements associated with the loss. Things that will be on your mind might include the cost of the funeral, or the fact that you may be ignoring others in your life because of the grief process. This will transition into a more subtle and perhaps more private depression.

This kind of depression may feel like it will never end, but it is important to remember that feeling depressed is an appropriate response to the loss of a loved one. It is not something that can be repaired with the snap of a finger. You must realize that it would be unusual if you did not experience some depression while mourning. Ultimately, depression is a difficult, but necessary and normal stage in the grieving process.

 

Stage Five: Acceptance

It is important to mention that the recovery stage does not mean that everything is “okay”. This is not true. Many people will never feel all right about the loss of their loved one. This stage, however, is partially about accepting that the person is not physically with you anymore. It is about being able to live, knowing that your loved one is not coming back.

At first, it may be very difficult to resume your “normal” life, because your loved one was part of what you considered to be “normal.” There must be acceptance of the new normal, which may just be having the good days outweigh the bad ones. Having a good day does not mean you are forsaking your loved one. Ideally you are able to continue current relationships, make new ones, and proceed with your life.

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