Stages of Grief

Grief comes in stages and a lot of people will talk about the stages of grief.  Not everyone will experience every stage of grief.  Some might just experience one or two stages, while others will keeping going through the cycle.  Others seems to recover from grief much easier and faster, while others it may take years.  The most common stages of grief are, denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

Denial is considered the first stage of grief.  Denial helps us to be able to survive the loss.  In this stage, your world becomes meaningless and overwhelming.  Your life doesn't make sense anymore.  You have entered into a state of shock and denial.  You go numb, you wonder how you can go on, if you can go on and why should you want to go on.  You try to find a way to simply get through each day.  Denial and shock help you to be able to cope and make survival possible.  Denial helps you to pace your feelings of grief.  There is a grace in denial, as it is natures way of letting in only as much as you can handle.  As you begin to accept the reality of the loss and start to ask yourself questions, you are beginning the healing process.  You are becoming stronger, and the denial is beginning to fade.  But as you begin to proceed, just remember that all of the feelings you were denying will begin to surface.  

Anger is considered to be the second stage of grief.  Anger is considered to be a necessary stage of the healing process.  You need to be willing to feel your anger, even though ti may seem like it will never end.  The more you truly feel it, the more it will begin to dissipate and you can heal.  There are many emotions that are under the anger, and you will go through them all in time.  But anger is the is the emotion we are most used to being able to manage.  The honest truth is that anger has no limits.  It can extend to just your friends and family or beyond like to your doctor, yourself, your loved one who has died or even to God.  You may ask, "Where is God in all of this?"  Underneath all of that anger is your pain.  It is natural to feel deserted and abandoned, but you also live in a society that fears anger.  Anger is strength and it can be an anchor, giving temporary structure to the nothingness of loss.  At first grief feels like you are lost at sea, having no connection to anything or anyone.  Then you get angry at someone, maybe a person who didn't attend the funeral, a person who isn't around, a person who is different now that your loved one has died, or a complete stranger because they looked at you the wrong way.  Suddenly you have a structure, your anger towards them.  The anger becomes a bridge over the open seas, a connection from you to them.  It is something to hold onto; a connection made from the strength of anger feels better than nothing at all.  You usually know more about suppressing anger than feeling it.  Just remember the anger is just another indication of the intensity of your love you had for that person.  

Bargaining is considered to be the third stage of grief.  Sometimes you begin bargaining before someone has died, because they are ill.  You begin saying things like, "I'll be good, if you just let them live."  Though after loss, bargaining may take the form of a temporary truce.  You may say things like, "What if I devote my life to helping others, and then I can wake up and this will have been nothing but a nightmare."  You become lost in a maze of if only or what if statements.  You want life to be returned to what it once was.  You want your loved one to be alive and well.  You want to be able to go back in tine to ensure the illness was spotted more quickly, to not leave them alone, to stay longer, or anything else.  Guilt is often bargaining companion, as the if only's and what ifs cause you to find the fault in yourself and you think that you could have done something differently to prevent your loved one from dying.  You may even bargain with the pain, that you would do anything not to feel the pain of your loss.  You remain in the past, trying to negotiate your way out of the hurt.   

Depression is considered to be the fourth stage of grief.  Once you are done with bargaining, you attention is moved into the present.  Empty feelings will begin to present themselves and grief will enter your life on a deeper level, deeper that you can ever imagine.  This depressive stage will feel as though it will last forever.  It is important to understand that this depression is not a sign of a mental illness.  This depression comes from the loss of a loved one.  It is the appropriate response to a great loss.  You will withdraw from life and be left in a fog of intense sadness, and wondering if there is any point in going on alone or why go on at all.  Depression after loss is too often seen as being unnatural: a state to be fixed or something you need to snap out of.  The first question that you should ask yourself is whether or not the situation you are in is actually depressing.  The loss of a loved one is a very depressing situation and depression is a normal and very appropriate response.  To not experience depression  after a loved one dies would be unusual.  When the loss fully settles into your soul, the realization that you loved one didn't get better and is not coming back is understandably depressing.  If grief is a process of healing, then depression is one of the many necessary steps along the way.  

Acceptance is considered to be the fifth stage of grief.  Acceptance is often confused with the notion of being okay or all right with what has happened.  This is false.  Most people don't ever feel OK or all right about the loss of a loved one.  This stage is about accepting the reality that our loved one is physically gone and recognizing your new reality is permanent.  You will never ever like this reality or make it okay, but eventually you will have to accept it.  You will learn to live with it.  It is the new norm with which you must learn to live.  You must try to live now in a world where your loved one is missing.  In resisting this new norm, at first many people want to maintain life as it was before a loved one has died.  However in tie, you begin to realize that you cannot maintain the past intact.  It has been forever changed and you have to readjust.  You have to being to reorganize roles, re-assign them to others or take them on for yourself.  Finding acceptance may be just having more good days than bad ones.  As you begin to live again and enjoy your life, you will often feel that in doing so, you are betraying your loved one.  You can never replace what has been lost, but you can make new connections, new meaningful relationships, new inter-dependencies.  Instead of denying your feelings, you need to listen to your needs, you move, you change, you grow, you evolve.  You may start to reach out to others, and become involved in their lives.  you invest in your friendships and in your relationships.  You begin to live again, but you cannot do so until you have given grief its time.  

A thing to remember is that people will often think of the stages of grief lasting weeks or months.  They tend to forget that the stages are responses to feelings that can last for minutes, or hours as you flip in and out of one and then onto another.  You do not enter and leave each individual stage in a linear fashion.  You may feel one, then another and then back again to the first one.  Just remember it is normal.  

Grieving is different at different ages

When a person is grieving, there are age and emotional factors that influence a way a person will perceive death.  It is said that death doesn't effect children the way that it does an adult.  I'm not sure if that is true or not.  I think it depends on the child and their relationship to that adult.  

Children younger than 7, have the ability to perceive death as a kind of separation.  They may feel that they have been abandoned, and will show signs of being scared.  Sometimes young children will fear being alone or they don't want to leave people that they love.  Grieving young children, may not want to sleep along at night, they might refuse to go to daycare, to a babysitter or school.  Sometimes younger children have a hard time verbally expressing their feelings, or they are unable to.  Instead, they act out their feelings through behaviors, such as having trouble following directions, having a temper tantrum or meltdown, or they might struggle to play.  I have heard that if they are younger than the age of 2 when the loss occurs, they may refuse to speak.  Children between 2 and 5 may develop eating, sleeping or toileting and bed wetting problems.  
Children that are between 7 and 12, have the ability to perceive death as a threat to their own personal safety.  They tend to fear that they will die or that someone else they love will die.  They may try to protect themselves and others from death.  While some grieving children want to stay close to someone they think they can protect, others seem to withdraw, as they think it won't hurt as bad when that person dies.  Some kids behave well and don't seemed to be bothered by death.  Yet others can behave horribly.  They might have problems concentrating on schoolwork, following directions, and simply struggle to do daily tasks.  Children that are in this age group need to be reassured that they are not responsible for the death they are grieving for.  
Teens and adults perceive death alike.  Though a teenager might express their feelings in a dramatic or unexpected way.  They might join a religious group that defines death in such a way that it will calm their feelings.  They may try to defy death by participating in dangerous activities, like reckless driving.  Others may turn to smoking, drinking, doing drugs or having unprotected sex.  Like adults, teens will sometimes have suicidal thoughts while they are grieving.  
Just remember that everyone will experience grief they own way and in their own time.  Just be there for someone who is grieving.  Call them, send them a note or text, visit with them, take them out (if you can get them out).  

The Symptoms of Grief.

You might think that all grief is crying, but you are wrong.  There are actually symptoms that a person has while they are grieving.  Not everyone who is grieving will have all of the symptoms, as we all grieve in our own way and it also depends on how grief will affect us.

Physical symptoms of grief:

  • Crying
  • Sighing
  • Headaches 
  • Loss of appetite
  • Difficulty Sleeping
  • Weakness
  • Fatigue,
  • Feelings of heaviness
  • Aches and pains.

Emotional symptoms of grief:
  • Sadness
  • Yearning
  • Worry
  • Anxiety
  • Frustration
  • Anger
  • Guilt 
Social symptoms of grief:
  • Detachment from others
  • Isolating yourself from others
  • Withdrawn
  • Acting in ways that are not normal for you
Spiritual symptoms of grief:
  • Questioning your existence
  • Questioning the reason for your loss
  • Questioning the purpose of pain and suffering
  • Questioning the meaning of death and why it happens 
Grief has the ability to cause prolonged and serious symptoms, including depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts and actions, physical illness and post traumatic stress disorder.  If you are having any of these symptoms, please talk to someone about it.  

What is Grief?

Grief is a cruel thing that, we humans must face in our lifetimes.  Life would be so much better if there were no grief, but then if there was no grief, then there would be no joy.  Sadly grief and joy do go hand in hand at times.  I do not fully understand grief and why it has such a powerful hold on us.  It has the power to take even the strongest person and turn them into a puddle of mud.  It takes your heart and squeezes so hard that if feels as if it is shattering.  It makes life so difficult to live at times, and the thing is once you experience it, it never goes away.  There are times when you think all is well, and it comes slamming into you like a freight train, reminding you of what you have truly lost.

Grief is defined at a response to loss, particularly to the loss of someone or something that has died and there was a bond or affection formed.  Yes people do grieve for their pets, but I'm not sure it is as deep as a grief as it would be for a family member.  I think that truly depends on the person and how close they were to the pet.  Some people are extremely close to their pets and treat them as they would a child, while others are like okay it is an animal how cute.

Grief is usually associated to an emotion response to loss, but it also has physical, cognitive, behavioral, social, cultural, and philosophical dimensions.  Grief is a natural response to loss.  It is the emotional suffering one feels, when they have lost someone or something extremely important to them.  Most people experience grief when a loved one has died, but you can grieve in connection to a variety of losses throughout your life.  Those losses can be unemployment, ill health or the end of a relationship.  Loss can be either physical or abstract or both.  The physical loss is when you can no longer touch your loved one.  The abstract loss is related to the aspects of a person's social interactions, such as talking to them, or taking them somewhere.

Your experience with grief, will be different from another person's and remember that is okay.  We all grieve differently and we need to remember that.  Also, you might grieve somewhat differently each time you experience loss, as it depends on your relationship with that person and how close you were to them.

Just remember we all grieve, and it is normal to grieve.  There is no time period when one must be done grieving.  We all get through the grieving process differently, and truth be known, you will actually grieve forever, you just learn to live with it.