Grief is one of our natural emotions. We feel grief whenever we loose something or someone we valued. It can leave us feeling lost, confused and overwhelmed with emotions. Although these stages are known in grief counseling after experiencing a death or facing death as in terminally ill patients, you can still experience these stages after a break up with a friend, significant other, divorce or loss of a dream or vision that you had for something. Following are the 5 stages of grief developed by Psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross.
Denial is the stage where you can’t or don’t want to believe the loss you just experienced. You may be in shock and can’t believe the reality of things. The fact that you lost someone or something doesn’t seem real.
Denial is usually the first stage in Grief, but not always. It helps to talk to others who are supportive about what has happened and how you’re feeling.
During the Anger stage, you are angry at everything and probably everyone. It doesn’t seem fair that other people are living their lives being happy, while you’re in pain. You may be angry towards the person who died or you feel you have lost.
Anger is completely normal and you should find healthy ways of expressing your anger. Don’t keep your feelings of anger inside but be careful not to express it by lashing out on people or hurting yourself.
Physical coping skills, such as any kind of exercise, breaking things in a safe way (branches in your yard, ripping paper, cutting wood, hitting a punching bag, etc.) really help to release the tension of anger in a healthy way.
Bargaining is the stage where you want to somehow negotiate to get rid of some of your pain. It can be pleading with the person you’re loosing. Pleading with God or life itself. Bargaining gives you a sense of hope by looking for another way.
The Depression phase is when you have all the symptoms of depression. You loose interest in doing the things you once enjoyed doing, loosing hope, changes to your appetite, changes to your sleep patterns, crying easily, feeling empty or feeling angry.
It’s important to seek help if the depression lasts every single day for weeks or months. There is no time limit on when the depression would go away completely because that’s part of the grieving process. But it’s important to not isolate yourself. If you notice that your mood is starting to affect your school/work, relationships and health, that’s a sign to seek professional help.
Keeping a journal and writing what you’re going through, spending time with supportive people, listening to music and being patient with yourself, are things that could alleviate symptoms of depression due to grieving.
Acceptance is the final stage in the 5 stages of grief. This is where you are starting to accept the loss. You no longer strongly feel angry, depressed, or bargaining.
Feelings of acceptance is a sign that you’re ready to move on. But I will warn you, sometimes you get to this stage, and something could happen that you’ll be triggered and it’ll put you back into the anger, depression, bargaining or denial stages.
Triggers could be finding something that belonged to the person you lost, hearing a song that reminds you of them, or even seeing them. If time has passed and you think you have accepted your loss, but then get triggered, that’s a sign that you still need time to heal.
I know it hurts and feels awful when you’re going through this process, but it’s important to feel your feelings. That’s how you grief and move forward with your life. Feel the anger. Feel the sadness. It’s ok to cry. Try your best not to numb your feelings with medication, alcohol, drugs or keeping super busy. This will only prolong the grieving process.
If you or someone you know needs extra support, a great website is www.elliesway.org or click here for more resources.
About the author.
Liza J Alvarado is a Licensed Professional Counselor in private practice. She serves Adolescents, Adults, and Spanish speaking families in the Lehigh Valley, PA area.