Bereavement is a difficult journey. Being left behind is painful and difficult emotional time. It is hard to understand how to navigate this emotional whirlwind journey of grief. A useful way to understand this journey is illustrated in the five stages of grief.
The five stages of grief is a framework devised by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in 1969, in her book on death and dying. Five stages of grief can apply to various loss and grief processes.
Grief is an individual journey, and we can all experience it in different ways. The five stages of grief is a useful guide to understand some of the grieving process.
Five stages of Grief
When you first experience a loss, it’s common to not fully accept or believe that it has happened. This is called denial, and it’s a way for your mind to protect you from the intense pain and shock of the loss. You may feel numb or find it hard to believe that the person or thing you lost is really gone. It can be a way of gradually accepting the reality of the situation at a pace that feels more manageable.
As time goes on and the initial shock wears off, you may start to feel angry about the loss. This anger can take different forms, like feeling frustrated, resentful, or believing that what happened is unfair. It’s important to know that anger is a normal and healthy response to loss. It allows you to express your pain and confront the unfairness of the situation. You might direct your anger at yourself, the person who passed away, others involved, or even a higher power.
During the bargaining stage, you may try to regain control or make sense of what happened. You might catch yourself thinking “what if” or “if only” statements, wishing you could change the outcome. You might try to negotiate with a higher power or explore alternative scenarios in your mind. It’s common to reflect on your own actions and wonder if you could have done something differently to prevent the loss. Bargaining is a way of seeking temporary relief from the pain and uncertainty of grief.
As time passes and the intensity of your emotions starts to subside, you might find yourself in a period of deep sadness and reflection. This is not the same as clinical depression, but rather a natural response to loss. You may withdraw from others, feel empty inside, or struggle with changes in sleep or appetite. This sadness allows you to mourn the magnitude of the loss and recognise how deeply it has affected your life.
Finally, acceptance is the stage where you come to terms with the reality of the loss and find ways to integrate it into your life. Acceptance doesn’t mean that the pain goes away or that you forget about what you lost. Instead, it’s about finding a new way to live your life that has meaning and purpose. You develop a sense of inner peace and understand that life can continue even without what was lost. You regain your energy, engage in new activities, and form new relationships while still holding onto the memories and impact of the loss.
Emotional whirlwind journey through the five stages of grief is a life changing experience. It needs resilience to navigate the pain and loss. The above stages may not be linear, and sometimes it can feel that all the emotions are happening at once. Five stages of grief are a useful roadmap to understanding the grief journey.
Don’t forget the emotional journey of grief is unique to each person. Acknowledging the above stages, can help you find comfort, growth and a renewed hope for the future.