5 Stages of Grief Explained and How to Overcome
What are the 5 stages of grief? Grief is a person’s natural response to loss. It happens when one loses someone or something which they loved or had a deep connection. A feeling of helplessness, anger, and void that fills the heart within is what makes up grief. The loss can be the death of a loved one or pet, loss of a job, loss of child care, loss of routine and a sense of safety, or a broken relationship. Grief will cause deep internal pain and you may cry, become angry, feel empty, or even withdraw from society.
The difference between grief and mourning is that grief occurs from within. Mourning, on the other hand, occurs when one takes the grief they feel inside to another level.
Grief is a process that varies from person to person. The way people react to loss is also somewhat different. Still, some traits of grief and its stages can be common to most individuals.
A Swiss-American Psychiatrist named Elizabeth Kubler-Rose was the first person to observe the 5 stages of grief. After years of working and observing terminally ill patients, she wrote a book “On Death and Dying”, and outlined the following theory of grief, known as the Kubler-Ross model.
What are the 5 Stages of Grief according to Elizabeth Kubler-Ross?
The 5 stages of depression are as follows:
1. Denial and Isolation
Not everyone may go through the 5 stages of grief, or in the outlined order. The amount of time one may spend at a particular stage also varies from person to person. This depends on the age of the grieving person among other things.
1. Denial and Isolation
Coming to terms with a major sudden loss in life is hard. The feeling of not being able to see or speak to a close friend or loved one forever is overwhelming. Among the 5 stages of grief, this is the hardest stage, and accepting the loss fast will help one heal faster.
When a loved one dies, it may take months or years for the relatives to accept. This depends on the depth of bonding and connection they had with the one they lost. At this initial stage of grief, one may deny the loss due to the sudden nature of the loss and unbelief. The denial stage includes comforting oneself that the loved one is not dead. Some mothers may cling to their dead children and refuse to leave them to the morgue attendant. During this stage, the grieving person may refuse any comfort from friends or relatives and may isolate themselves to absorb what has occurred.
While going through grief, it’s always important to accept the reality of the loss. Not doing so will only lengthen the grief healing process.
To start the grief healing process, one should accept the loss and be strong so as to comfort other family members who are still struggling to come to terms with the loss.
Among the 5 stages of grief, anger happens to be the second stage! When one begins to accept the loss, other emotions may begin to manifest. These are emotions such as sorrow and pain. During the denial stage, one may cop by hoping that everything will be alright. When it’s no longer possible to live in denial, frustration and anger take over as the reality of the loss sets in. This is when the grieving person comes to terms with the fact that they have, indeed, lost what they love. Anger is the second stage of grief. It may be directed to other people who may have caused the loss. This may include the doctors, one’s ex, former boss, and even the dead person. Some people also feel angry at God for allowing the loss to occur. Such may direct their anger to religious leaders and may refuse to attend religious gatherings.
At this stage of grief, it’s good to sit back and accept the transpired circumstances that are beyond our control. A positive attitude towards life may be very helpful here. One should let off steam by engaging in other social activities where they can forget the loss.
Grief can make one feel helpless. In this third stage of grief, one may look for ways to regain control or to want to feel like they can affect the outcome of an event. The “what if” and “if only” statements may flood one’s mind as one tries to reflect the possible outcome that may have occurred before the loss. This occurs as a line of defense against the emotions of grief. It may help one to cope by allowing them a sense of control in the face of helplessness.
At the bargaining stage, one should try not to think of the loss too much. Instead, they should focus on their next move and come out of the many illusional ideas in their mind.
During this fourth stage of grief, one has passed through three stages and is on their way to healing. One accepts the loss, refrains from being angry, and also avoids the bargaining “what if” and “if only” statements in their mind.
Although one still feels the full weight of their sadness, they can still be able to embrace their emotions and work through them in a more healthful manner. Some may isolate themselves from others so as to cope with the loss.
Among the 5 stages of grief, depression may be the longest stage, and one may need to seek a psychiatrist’s help if it interferes with work or daily schedule. The depressed person should work on moving to the next stage of depression, acceptance.
5. Fifth Stage of Grief: Acceptance
Acceptance doesn’t show that everything is now alright and the grieving person can now live as before. No! It only means that the grieving person has been able to overcome the former stages of grief. Although one can still revert to depression and the other initial stages of grief, the burden or weight may be less.
At this stage of grief, one can come out and socialize, go to work, and also go on with their former routine as before. While there may be voids in one’s daily life activities caused by the loss, one learns to deal with these challenges.
After going through the 5 stages of grief, the healing process will set in. According to various experts, grief can continue for a lifetime after a major loss, and coping with the loss only becomes easier over time. Reminders of the loss may at times trigger some waves of grief despite being beyond the 5 stages of grief and on the healing process.
Since grief is personal, one may feel something different at each stage and may need several weeks or years before they finally accept the loss and move on. A mental health professional advice is also a good way to speed up the acceptance and healing process.