Grief is a painful emotion, a natural response to loss. Death of a loved one, breakup, divorce, diagnosis of a terminal illness, or losing a job can all cause grief. Some of the emotions that people experience while grieving are numbness, shock, guilt, and withdrawal.
Though grief is very personal, and people experience varying emotions at different intensities, there are some commonalities in those feelings— the stages and order of those feelings/emotions.
Grieving also takes time; some grieves for a few months and some for years.
By understanding the different stages of grief, one can allow themself to grieve naturally and heal completely.
The 5 Stages of Grief
It is important to note that not everyone will go through all the stages of grief and the same order. People can go back and forth with these feelings and also get stuck in a particular stage.
Most people respond to a loss by denying it. They know something has happened but pretend to not believe the loss yet. Denying is like a defence phase that borrows them the time to process the loss. Confusion, discomfort, and sadness are some of the emotions felt during this stage of grief.
Anger is the next stage, a common emotion that many experiences when in pain. It can be redirected to other people, and there are no limits. Many try to suppress this but the more you start feeling it, the more it gets dissipated, helping you heal.
After a loss, many tend to get stuck in the world of ‘what if’ and ‘if only’ statements. It’s more like revisiting the past, feeling guilty, making promises, or asking a higher power for another chance to make things right. Bargaining helps to postpone the sadness or guilt that comes from loss.
When grief starts striking at a deeper level, depression becomes inevitable. During this stage, people somehow acknowledge the loss, which can become overwhelming. Though it is a necessary stage of healthier healing, feeling depressed for a long time needs help from a therapist or counsellor.
Acceptance is not just being okay or feeling less painful with the loss but truly accepting the loss and learning to live with it. It is a positive emotion that makes people heal gradually and evolve by replacing sadness with hope for the future, thinking of the good days ahead.
The 7 Stages of Grief
Another grief model is the 7 stages of grief which includes:
- Shock and Denial
- Pain and Guilt
- Anger and Bargaining
- The Upward Turn (the calm state after pain, anger, and guilt)
- Processing Grief (a reconstruction phase where you look for realistic solutions)
- Acceptance and Hope