By Susan Regan, MFT
Seven Stages of Grief
1. Shock and Denial
You will probably react to learning of the loss with numbed disbelief. You may deny the reality of the loss at some level, in order to avoid the pain. Shock provides emotional protection from being overwhelmed all at once. This may last for weeks.
2. Pain and Guilt
As the shock wears off, it is replaced with suffering from unbelievable pain. Although excruciating and almost unbearable, it is important that you experience the pain fully, and not hide it, avoid it or escape from it with alcohol or drugs.
You may have guilty feelings or remorse over things you did or didn’t do with your loved one. Life feels chaotic and scary during this phase.
3. Anger and Bargaining
Frustration gives way to anger, and you may lash out and lay unwarranted blame for the death on someone else. Please try to control this, as permanent damage to your relationships may result. This is a time for the release of bottled up emotion.
You may rail against fate, questioning “Why me?” You may also try to bargain in vain with the powers that be for a way out of your despair (“I will never drink again if you just bring him back”)
4. “Depression”, Reflection, Loneliness
Just when your friends may think you should be getting on with your life, a long period of sad reflection will likely overtake you. This is a normal stage of grief, so do not be “talked out of it” by well-meaning outsiders. Encouragement from others is not helpful to you during this stage of grieving.
During this time, you finally realize the true magnitude of your loss, and it depresses you. You may also isolate yourself on purpose, reflect on things you did with you lost one, and focus on memories of the past. You may sense feelings of emptiness or despair.
5. The Upward Turn
As you start to adjust to life without your dear one, you life becomes a little calmer and more organized. Your physical symptoms lessen, and your “depression” begins to lift slightly.
6. Reconstruction and Working Through
As you become more functional, your mind starts working again, and you will find yourself seeking realistic solutions to problems posed by life without your loved one. You will start to work on practical and financial problems and reconstructing yourself and your life without him or her.
7. Acceptance and Hope
During this phase, the last of the seven stages in this grief model, you learn to accept and deal with the reality of your situation. Acceptance does not necessarily mean instant happiness. However, you will find a way forward.
Factors that may hinder the healing process:
– Avoidance or minimization of one’s emotions
– Use of alcohol or drugs to self-medicate
– Use of work (over-function at workplace) to avoid feelings