At some point, all of us will feel grief or loss. They are undesirable feelings, but ones that we cannot avoid. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. Grief is a process and there are healthy ways to go through it.
What is Grief?
Grief is a natural response to loss. The pain of a loss can be overwhelming. Loss causes emotional suffering when something or someone you love is taken away. Losing someone takes an emotional toll and it causes waves of different emotions. You may experience all kinds of difficult emotions, from shock or anger, guilt, and a sadness unlike any other. These emotions can be intense. Loss is not something anyone takes lightly. The pain from grief can cause physical effects, as well. From not eating and not sleeping or sleeping too much. Sometimes, you can feel so overwhelmed you can’t even think straight. These are normal emotions in regard to grief, but sometimes they can become too overwhelming. They can lead you to begin dealing with them in unhealthy ways. There are events in life that can provoke grief. While losing someone is often the cause of the most intense type of grief, but any loss can cause grief. Events in life like divorce, a miscarrage or abortion, death of a pet, retirement, the loss of the feeling of security after a traumatic experience can all provoke grief.
The Five Stage of Grief
There are 5 stages of grief:
Loss and grief look different for everyone. You may not go through every single stage or may experience them in a different order.
Stage 1- Denial
Denying it gives you time to more gradually absorb the news and begin to process it. This is a common defense mechanism and helps numb you to the intensity of the situation. Denial buys you time to slowly begin to absorb the gravity of the situation. However, as you begin to leave the stage of denial, those feelings will rise back up.
Stage 2- Anger
Anger is a masking emotion. It distracts you from all the pain and grief you are feeling. This anger may be redirected at other people, such as the person who died, your ex, or your old boss. You may even aim your anger at inanimate objects. Sometimes, the pain is too intense that even though you know assigning blame isn’t right- it gets you through another moment. We cannot stay in this stage because it can be dangerously unhealthy. It may not always be red hot rage, feelings of anger can turn into resentment or bitterness.
Stage 3- Bargaining
Bargaining sometimes are the recurring “what ifs” or “if only” thoughts. It isn’t uncommon for people who are religious to try and make a deal or a promise to their higher power for relief from the pain or to get what they have lost back. If you do this- I swear I’ll do it differently this time.
Stage 4- Depression
Depression is a more internal part of grieving. This can become a stage that some get stuck in. In this stage, you begin to realize the gravity of what has happened. This stage is when you begin to see and feel your loss less clouded by other emotions. As the panic, anger, and shock begin to subside the loss becomes clearer and feels more unavoidable. People can easily sink into deep depressions without noticing how much they have pulled away from life. Being comfortable in your sadness lets life pass you by. You may stop reaching out to others for help or being less sociable all together. This can become an isolated feeling. Isolation helps sadness and depression flourish.
Stage 5- Acceptance
Acceptance does not mean you no longer feel the pain of your loss or have completely moved on from it. It may not feel like a happy stage at all. It does, however, mean that you are no longer struggling to make the situation different. You have stopped resisting the fact that that situation happened. You may feel different at this stage and that looks different for everyone. You are coming to a point where you are looking at what your life is now- it may look or feel different than before. There will be good days and there will be bad days.
Coping skills are important and can be helpful when navigating a loss. These mechanisms can help you adjust to stressful or traumatic events while, also, helping to maintain your emotional well-being. There are different types of mechanisms that can work for all different types of people. Experts agree that coping is a process rather than an event. It takes effort to apply these coping mechanisms, but when you do they become coping skills. There are two main types of coping skills. There are two different types of coping: problem-based coping and emotion-based coping.
It is important to evaluate where you are in life and your emotions when encountering traumatic situations. Examples of emotion-based coping skills are exercise, soaking in a bath, meditating, or therapy. Problem-based coping skills are working on time management, asking for support, establishing healthy boundaries, or creating a to-do list. Whatever the source of your grief using healthy skills can and will help you get to a better place. A death to someone close to you can turn your world upside down. When those feelings and thoughts begin to spin out of control, going on a bike ride can help you refocus. Doing little healthy things for yourself will help keep you sane. Grief is always going to be a difficult emotion. Even still, it is worth knowing love and friendship.