7 Stages Of GriefMar 07, 2022
7 Stages of Grief
By: Shawn Thompson
Coping with loss and dealing with all the emotions of grief is a trying time for anyone to deal with. Grief can feel like extreme sadness, confusion, chaos, anger, resentment, and more. Those who have had to go through the grieving process could easily tell you what their grief felt like and how it was hard for them.
For many, there is quite an extensive mourning process that comes with the various stages of grief. This is why knowing grief symptoms can be a big indicator to someone about what stages of grief and loss they’re currently going through. Of course, the symptoms of grief present differently in each individual. They can manifest emotionally, physically, and/or socially.
Bereaved people may cry often, but not be able to express their feelings. Feelings of depression are not uncommon, and they may become worse on significant days, such as the anniversary of a death or traumatic event or on a holiday. When emotional symptoms are not resolved, anxiety and depression can become serious issues. If the source of grief is related to a sudden, unexpected event, the individual may also experience the post-traumatic stress disorder. Without proper education and help, those with severe emotional grief symptoms may turn to alcohol and/or substance abuse as a way to cope.
Emotional symptoms may present as anger, sadness, numbness, negative thoughts, anxiety, guilt, regret, shame, and yearning for the Loved one who passed. Physical symptoms may include headache, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, or difficulty sleeping. Long-term physical symptoms may cause increased health disturbances, such as a compromised immune system or heart disease. Social symptoms may manifest as a desire to be alone or to seclude oneself from others. Many people find it difficult to focus on day-to-day tasks that were once simple. Social media may become an outlet for expression and comfort as well.
The full Seven Stages of Grief are as follows: shock and disbelief, denial, anger, bargaining, guilt, depression, acceptance. Let’s take a closer look at them.
Shock & Denial
This initial stage of grief is when feelings of disbelief impregnate your body and mind. If the loss or change was unexpected, such as a tragic accident or unexpected death, it can leave the bereaved feeling numb by the shock of the event. Some people describe this as feeling emotionally paralyzed, as if they know what has happened, but can't seem to feel the reality of the situation.
You will probably react to learning of the loss with numbed disbelief. You may deny the reality of the loss at some level, in order to avoid the pain. The shock provides emotional protection from being overwhelmed all at once. This may last for weeks.
Note: This type of grief is probably one of the biggest and most important stages that people go through once they start processing through the stages of grief after suicide.
Examples of emotions during this stage of grief: Mourning, Discomfort, Sadness, Confusion, Denial, Disbelief
Pain, Guilt, and Regret
As the shock wears off, it is replaced with the suffering of unbelievable pain. Although excruciating and almost unbearable, it is important that you experience the pain fully, and not hide it, avoid it or escape from it with alcohol or drugs.
You may have guilty feelings or remorse over things you did or didn’t do with your loved one. Life feels chaotic and scary during this phase.
As shock from the grief loss begins to subside, those emotions are often replaced with the feeling of suffering, pain and regret. During this time, it is important to allow oneself to experience the pain and not hide it. As difficult as dealing with the pain or remorse is, it is a natural part of healing.
If you know someone who is experiencing this stage of grief, being a present source of comfort and support will be helpful. It is during this time that those who feel unable to handle the guilt and pain often turn to the use of alcohol or other substances to avoid feeling the pain.
Examples of emotions during this stage of grief: Sadness, Guilt, Desperation, Betrayal, Regret
Anger & Bargaining
When guilt begins to subside, many people begin to feel angry. During this stage, it is common for the bereaved to lash out at others. For example, if a parent loses a child, she may blame God and question why her child died before she did. Some people even blame the person who died and wonder how he/she could have left them. For the person who lost a job or a home, he may feel anger toward a boss or landlord for not being more considerate or giving him another chance. While this is an expected stage of grief, it's important to remember that poor behavior could result in damage to other relationships (personal and professional). Therefore, learning to release bottled-up emotions healthily is crucial.
Frustration gives way to anger, and you may lash out and lay unwarranted blame for the death on someone else. Please try to control this, as permanent damage to your relationships may result. This is not a time for the release of bottled-up emotion. You may rail against fate, questioning “Why me?” You may also try to bargain in vain with the powers that be for a way out of your despair: “I will never drink again if you just bring her back now”!
When unexpected illnesses or accidents occur that do not immediately end in loss of life, many people try to "bargain" as a way of getting through the event. For instance, if a loved one has been diagnosed with a terminal illness such as cancer, a family member may pray and tell God that they will give something in exchange for healing.
Depending on if you’re ready for grief counseling, this is a step that might be a good choice to look into.
Examples of emotions during this stage of grief: Anger, Resentment, Bargaining, Stubbornness
Depression, Reflection, and Loneliness
After the anger and desperation of bargaining begin to subside, the bereaved begin to reflect on the loss. It is during this time that the weight of the loss begins to take hold and when loneliness and depression begin to surface. When these emotions begin to be felt, many people withdraw from others (social symptoms of grief) and say that they want to deal with things alone. While some alone time is good for everyone, during the process of grief, it is also important to spend some time with others. If you feel grieved, but don't feel comfortable talking to friends or other loved ones, there are alternate options for healthy support.
During this time, you finally realize the true magnitude of your loss, and it depresses you. You may isolate yourself on purpose, reflect on things you did with your lost one, and focus on memories of the past. You may sense feelings of emptiness or despair.
Just when your friends may think you should be getting on with your life, a long period of sad reflection may likely overtake you. This is a normal stage of grief, so do not be “talked out of it” by well-meaning outsiders. Encouragement from others is not helpful to you during this stage of grieving.
Examples of emotions during this stage of grief: Depression, Empty, Heavy, Crushed, Frustrated
The Upward Turn
When the feelings of pain, guilt, and anger slowly lift, there seems to be an improvement in well-being. It's often described as the "upward turn" of emotions. During this time, although the loss is still felt, it is not as difficult to manage the symptoms associated with it. Individuals tend to feel more hopeful about life and begin to find some measure of peace-related to the loss.
As you start to adjust to life without your Loved one, life becomes a little calmer and more organized. Your physical symptoms lessen, and depression begins to lift slightly.
This is the part of the grieving process that you’ll start to see the light a bit at the end of the tunnel. It’s a middle ground of all the grief symptoms that you’ll go through but it’s one that you can build upon.
Examples of emotions during this stage of grief: Strength, Motivation, Awakened
Reconstruction & Working Through
Although this stage is still related to grief, it is associated with rebuilding the lives of the bereaved. Life begins to feel less tumultuous, and focus on wellness, both physically and emotionally, can begin.
As you become more functional, your mind starts working again, and you will find yourself seeking realistic solutions to problems posed by life without your Loved one. You will start to work on practical and financial problems and reconstructing yourself and your life without him or her.
As emotions begin to settle and thought processes feel less scattered, it becomes easier to work through feelings, seek solutions for managing grief and life, and begin to set realistic goals for the future.
Examples of emotions during this stage of grief: Inspired, Determined, Refreshed, Renewed
Acceptance & Hope
During this, the last of the seven stages in this grief model, you learn to accept and deal with the reality of your situation. Acceptance does not necessarily mean instant happiness. During this stage of grief, thinking about the future and planning life with new goals absent the loss you've suffered is the focus. Although you may still feel pain or sadness, it becomes less crippling than it was at the beginning of the grief journey. This becomes a time to anticipate happiness again and to find joy in the experience of everyday living.
It's important to note that accepting a loss does not mean pretending as though it never occurred. It also does not mean instant happiness. However, it is an opportunity to deal with the reality of what has happened and to learn ways of moving forward.
Given the pain and turmoil you have experienced, you can never return to the carefree, untroubled YOU that existed before this tragedy. But you will find a way forward. You will start to look forward and plan things for the future.
Eventually, you will be able to think about your lost loved one without pain. Will you have sadness? Yes! But the wrenching pain will be gone. You will once again anticipate some good times to come, and yes, even find joy again in the experience of living. You have made it through the 7 stages of grief.
Examples of emotions during this stage of grief: Hopeful, Comforted, Relaxed, Secure, Trust