Grief is inevitable. We all experience it at some point. Grief serves as a way of helping the mind work through the loss of something important. You may be grieving if:
- Someone you’re close to has died (parent, child, spouse, friend, miscarriage).
- You are going through a life transition (leaving home for the first time, getting married, having a baby, getting older). These transitions are supposed to be happy, but you may be grieving the life you had before the transition.
- You have lost a close relationship (significant other, friendship).
- You or someone you love is diagnosed with a serious illness.
- You have lost your job.
- You experience the loss of a hope or dream. (For example, you are unable to get into graduate school even though you worked hard for many years.)
Many people have heard of Küber-Ross and Kessler’s five stages of grief. These stages, as described briefly below, will help you understand how we grieve the loss of a loved one and other losses we experience.
Five Stages of Grief
- Denial- This stage may be evident through the feeling of disbelief. For example, the denial stage may appear as having trouble believing that your spouse is not returning home or what you lost may never return. The feeling of disbelief or denial helps you survive the loss.
- Anger- This may appear as anger toward the loved one who died for not caring for himself, toward the doctor for not seeing the symptoms, toward yourself for not preventing the loss, or toward God for what He has taken away. It is important to feel the anger because there are many emotions beneath the anger that you need to feel.
- Bargaining- In this stage, we bargain with God for more time or to not experience the loss. We often find ourselves saying “if only…” or “what if…” statements. Guilt often accompanies bargaining.
- Depression- This is the feeling of overwhelming sadness when you realize what you have lost. It is actually a normal response to loss. Allow yourself to feel depressed because you have lost something very valuable.
- Acceptance- This means coming to terms that you have lost someone or something. This does not mean that you are alright with what happened, but that you have a new reality. You realize that you cannot live the same life that you did with this person or thing. You work through healing and build a different relationship with what you lost.
It is important to mention that these stages may come and go within minutes, hours, days, or months. There is not a set amount of time in which each person experiences these stages, and each person may not go through the stages in order.
Article continues in Working Through Grief, Part 2
Kübler-Ross, E., & Kessler, D. (2005). On grief and grieving: Finding the meaning of grief through the five stages of loss. New York, NY: Scribner.