There is nothing in life that we experience more intensely than the loss of a loved one. It is a time of intense and sometimes confusing thoughts and feelings.
You’ve probably heard it said that no two people grieve the same way. That is true. Grief is a very individual experience. Personal values, spiritual beliefs, cultural influences and family traditions are different. Even people in the same family will grieve differently.
The process of grieving, however, tends to follow a pattern of stages. Within those stages, you will experience lots of different emotions that will sometimes be hard to face. Understanding this process can help you to understand and make sense of the thoughts and feelings you might experience.
The Stages of Grief
There are five significant stages of grief(1). Each of these stages represents a step in the process of grieving and moving forward from loss.
- Denial – The “This can’t be happening” stage. The person refuses to accept that the loss has happened.
- Anger – The “Why is this happening” stage.The person feels angry that the loss has occurred and blame themselves or others.
- Bargaining – The “Let’s make a deal” stage. The person seeks a way to avoid the inevitable loss by attempting to delay or change something. This stage represents a desperate expression of hope that the situation is still reversible.
- Depression – This is the “It’s hopeless” stage. The reality of the loss is beginning to set in. Feelings of intense sadness, hopelessness and helplessness emerge. This stage is sometimes described as the most difficult. It is also the most important because the person is recognizing the loss as real.
- Acceptance – This is the “I can go on” stage. This is the place where the reality of the situation is acknowledged and the focus becomes on moving forward. The person understands the loss, accepts the loss and is coping with their feelings in healthy ways.
So much about grief is personal and unique to the individual. A person grieving doesn’t always go through these stages one right after the other. The grieving process may start at any one of these places. There is also no set timeframe for this process. We all grieve in our own time. For everyone, the goal is acceptance and a return to healthy coping.
Understanding the process of grieving can help you understand where you are in the process and the thoughts and feelings you are experiencing.
When Grief Counseling Can Help
Grieving can be difficult and painful. Sometimes, no matter how hard you try to cope, you just can’t seem to move forward. You aren’t alone. The counselors at Athens Grief Counseling can help.
At Athens Grief Counseling, we have experienced counselors who can help you or your loved one find healthy ways to cope with your grief and get you on the path to healing. Call us today to schedule your confidential appointment.
1. Kübler-Ross, E. (1997). On death and dying: What the dying have to teach doctors, nurses, clergy, and their families. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster/Touchstone Book.