Small Steps in Handling Grief

The five stages of grief; denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance are part of a framework that help us to learn to live with the loss of a loved one. It’s a reminder that you have friends, love ones and professional support networks who can empathise and relate to the grieving process, and are there to support you through this difficult time.

A couple of points about the grieving process;

  • The stages are not universal, and not everyone may experiences them all or in the same order
  • Some stages may take much longer than others, and that’s ok
  • The stages can come back and evolve depending on a number of factors in your life
  • You are not alone in this, reach out for help and support if you need to

Stages of Grief

In this stage, the world may become meaningless, and everything around you may seem overwhelming.  You are in a state of shock and life can make no sense. The feeling of numbness can be very real and you may wonder how you can actually go on, and maybe even wonder why you should go on?

Denial and shock act as a coping mechanism, while denial helps to really pace the feelings of grief. Denial is nature’s way of letting in only as much as you can handle. As you accept the reality of the loss and start to ask yourself questions, you are unknowingly beginning the process of healing. You are becoming stronger each day, and the denial will begin to fade.

Anger is another necessary stage of the healing process. Underneath anger is pain and it is only natural to feel abandoned after the loss of a loved one, and begin to question the situation.

There are many other emotions under the anger you feel, but anger is actually the emotion we are most used to managing. The truth of the situation is that anger has no limits.

Unfortunately we usually know more about suppressing anger than feeling it, however anger is just another indication of the intensity of your love for the person who has passed.

Before a loss occurs, it seems like you will do absolutely anything for your loved one to be spared, while after a loss, bargaining may take the form of a temporary truce. The ‘what if’s and ‘if only’ questions being to cause havoc on your thinking process, while bargaining’s companion – guilt – is also playing on our mind.

Essentially we will do anything not to feel the pain of this loss. We try to focus on the past, negotiating our way out of the hurt and pain.

The stages of grief are responses to feelings that can last for hours, days or weeks. We do not enter and exit each stage in a linear fashion. We may in fact feel one, then another and back again to the first one, which is all part of the healing process.

After bargaining, our attention moves back into the present. The feelings of emptiness present themselves, and grief enters our lives on a deeper level, deeper than we may have ever imagined. While this depressive stage may feel as though it will last forever, it’s important to understand that this depression is not a sign of mental illness, just a natural response to a great loss.

Unfortunately, depression is often the longest phase for many people. You can easily create deep reservoirs of regret and pain, and fall ever further into a spiral where you feel like you were at fault. It’s important to remember that;

You are not alone and you are not at fault.
You need reassurance. You can’t control what happened. But you can control you.
You can control your future. And you will come out of this.

Depression is one of the many important and necessary steps along the way to healing.

This stage is about accepting the reality that our loved one is physically gone and recognising that this new reality.

We will never like this reality or be OK with it, but eventually we accept it, and we will learn to live with it.

It is this new version of ‘normal’ with which we must now learn to live. We must try to accept that this is now life, and we now live in a world where our loved one is not longer here.