Losing a Loved One: Stages of Grief
As complicated as it sounds, grief is a process which can be worked through. A famous psychiatrist, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross is recognised as one of the foremost authorities in the field of death and dying. Her first book, On Death and Dying is required reading in many universities in the schools of medicine and social sciences.
Although the grieving process is very individual, Kubler-Ross found that people who are terminally ill go through similar stages before dying, and these stages are similar for those who grieve the loss of a loved one.
These five stages are not cyclical, nor is every stage common to everyone who grieves. It might be useful for you to look at the stages of grief in order to identify where you are now and were you would like to be in the future.
Immediately after the death of your loved one, you may experience shock or denial. This is especially noticeable if the death is sudden or unexpected or the result of a long illness where the death was not foreseen. You may only take in small amounts of information according to what you can handle. You will wake up in the morning wanting to push away the reality of the loss and believe only what you choose to accept. This is a perfectly normal reaction except where the denial extends beyond a feasible time.
When the full impact of the loss hits home, many of us feel anger. This is a result of having accepted the reality of the loss but yearnings for the loved one emerge. This anger can be directed to the deceased person for deserting or abandoning us or displaced incorrectly to others including people who offer support, doctors and hospital staff or even God. At this time there is a great need to speak about these feelings.
Bargaining is the negotiation stage and is usually when one bargains with a higher being or God. We unconsciously or consciously say things like “if you take this pain away, I will try to get my act together”.
Eventually the full impact of the loss will catch up with you. Whether it is a gradual or sudden realisation, you will see that things can’t be undone or changed. You will have to come to terms with the facts and those facts can be the cause of extreme sadness and depression. Depression should be carefully monitored and addressed by professionals if needed.
The final stage is that of acceptance. Gradually, we recognise that we are becoming more interested in what is going on around us and begin to enjoy what life has to offer. True acceptance comes when functioning has returned and having acknowledged the loss in its entirety. This is achieved when you are able to look back on yesterdays with your loved one, but are able to enjoy today and look forward to tomorrow.