Whether it’s the loss of a loved one, a miscarriage, or a breakup, grieving is no walk in the park. In dealing with grief, it’s soothing to know you’re not alone and that the cycle of emotions you’re experiencing is still within life’s fluctuating normalcy. With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic we know that many of our readers have lost loved ones and we’re hoping that this article will help you cope. 5 stages of grief.
There are different stages of dealing with grief and Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross originally wrote about these stages in her book, “On Death and Dying…” The stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
It was originally purported that typically, people experience most of these stages when faced with their imminent death. The five stages have since been adopted by many as applicable to survivors following the death of a loved one.
Note that these stages are not a guideline on how you should grieve but were broken down just to help you process what you may be feeling and handle each phase with a better understanding of your mental state. 5 stages of grief note.
Dealing with grief has no manual. Your feelings, your pace.
Here are the 5 phases of grief and how to cope through them…
Stage 1: Denial
It’s also known as the shock stage. This is the point where reality hasn’t really set in. Denying your loss gives you time to more gradually absorb the news and begin to slowly process it. In other words, shock helps protect you from absorbing the news and becoming overwhelmed all at once. This is a natural defense mechanism that helps numb you to the intensity of the situation.
Stage 2: Anger
While denial may be considered a coping mechanism, anger is a masking effect. Anger is a way of hiding many of the emotions and pain you feel. At this point, you’re borderline livid. You lash out and are very irritable making you hard to live with.
You may even aim your anger at people closest to you, the person you lost, or people who have wronged you in the past. You may also aim your anger at inanimate objects. Usually, your rational brain knows that your anger is misdirected, your feelings at that moment are usually too intense to reason that. It may be difficult and seem out of your control but try to hold back on the cruel words at this point.
Anger may also appear in the form of bitterness or resentment. It may not be outright fury or rage. Not everyone experiences this stage, and some may be stuck here for much longer than typical. As the anger subsides, however, you begin to think more rationally about your loss and better experience the true emotions you were masking.
Stage 3: Bargaining
At this point you’re willing to give away something of worth or you weren’t willing to let go, just to get what you lost back. This will further put you into misery because it’s really not an actual negotiation, it’s simply a coping mechanism. In the bargaining stage of grief, you may also find yourself creating a lot of “what if” and “if only” scenarios in your head.
Bargaining is another form of defense against the emotions of grief. It helps you postpone the sadness, heartbreak, or confusion within you.
Stage 4: Depression
This is the “you really should have gotten over it” phase. Family and friends, although they mean well, will try to talk you out of your downstate but pay no mind to this and don’t harbor resentment or transfer aggression. They are really just looking out for you.
It finally hits you deeply as you realize the depth of your loss. You may feel down, foggy or confused. It’s good to note that you’re absolutely normal and it’s just a phase of deep reflection and it’s beneficial to the healing process.
Stage 5: Acceptance
Acceptance is not necessarily a happy stage of grief. It doesn’t mean you overcame the loss. Rather, it is a stage where you’re becoming rational again and have accepted your fate. At this point, you’re thinking of practical ways to tackle your loss.
Inasmuch as you’ve accepted your loss and may not feel the excruciating pain anymore, you might not become happy or ecstatic. Sometimes, the sadness persists but you’re optimistic about living again.
How can I handle grief in a healthier way?
Even after going through these phases and you’re in a more peaceful place there will still be triggers (events, people, or things) that would remind you of your loss, albeit temporarily. You can keep your head above water with these tips.
#1. Allow yourself feel
There’s no need to try to be a hero. Feel deeply so you can heal properly. Take the time out to be with yourself and grieve right. Sometimes when we try to appear strong, a breakdown is inevitably lurking around the corner.
#2. Avoid drug or alcohol dependency
Resist the temptation to depend on drugs to escape your present reality. A lot of people develop the habit of looking to alcohol, marijuana, and its likes for solace. This could take a toll on your overall health. We have covered the effects of drug abuse on mental health here.
#3. Look out for yourself
It’s important that you attempt to eat well and rest as much as you can. Try not to yield to the convenience of starving yourself of sleep and food especially at the point where you blame yourself for being responsible for the predicament / loss. A healthy body is linked to a healthy mind. Look at it as a way of giving yourself the emotional / physical support required while dealing with grief to heal properly. Also, consider doing the things that bring you joy. How about returning to that old hobby?
#4. Hold off on major life decisions
You might not be in the right state of mind to make major decisions so give yourself time to heal before deciding to quit your job, move to another state or break up with your partner. Dealing with grief could blindly color perception which would lead to irrational decision making.
#5. Consider counseling
Most people who decide to seek help through therapy report that it felt good talking to someone who understood how they felt and didn’t pressure them to get over themselves.
Remember: There’s no generally accepted time frame required to stop grieving. Dealing with grief takes time. Also, it is almost impossible to think about the loss of a loved one without feeling sad but it gets bearable with time and becomes void of the initial tugging pain. There’s hope for joy again.
There will still be people who get stuck in one or more phases or those who keep reliving the cycle. These suggestions on how to cope are helpful but shouldn’t take the place of a therapist, especially if the feelings seem to persist and escalate. Take control of your mental health and consider getting online counseling through telemedicine companies like SouthEnd Psychiatry.
Photo Credit: Getty images, Featured image: Unsplash.com
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