Have you lost a loved one? Are you struggling to cope with the swell of emotions? Grief is a perfectly natural step on the road to healing, and you need to know how to deal with it effectively.
Grief typically moves through six stages, and understanding and managing each one is the key to learning to cope. Below, we discuss the six stages of grief and how to deal with them effectively.
What Is Grief?
Grief is the emotional human response to loss. Very often, this is to the loss of a loved one through death. However, it can cover loss of relationships, jobs, health, and a number of other situations.
Grief is a very powerful emotion. It can even induce physical symptoms in people, negatively impacting people’s health and clouding their judgment. Its six stages, though typically applied to the loss of a person, can apply to any of the aforementioned losses.
Denial is the first stage of grief. It is a perfectly natural coping mechanism that occurs as your mind tries to process the situation. Ignoring the loss, or pretending it is not happening, is common.
This mechanism is designed to help you cope with the overwhelming rush of emotion. For people who have a loved one who is terminally ill, this can occur before the death, when they refuse to believe that the illness will be the end.
The anger phase can manifest in a number of different ways and may be directed at different people or systems. For example, anger may be directed at medical staff as people believe they have not done enough, or believe the death is a result of negligence. Anger could also be directed at the deceased, for performing an action or not doing something to prevent the death.
If the grieving person is religious, this is the period in which they may experience a loss of faith. People may also start to be angry at life in general, and lose faith in their purpose.
It is also perfectly normal for anger to turn into guilt. This may be guilt that the grieving person themself could not have prevented the death in some way.
Bargaining is not a stage that occurs in everyone, though it is common for others. It may involve begging medical staff for more help, or praying to God if you are religious. Any form of a plea for help is seen as the bargaining phase of grief.
Depression is one of the most painful, debilitating parts of the grieving process. Luckily, it is one of the last and there is light at the end of the tunnel, even if the grieving person can not yet see it.
The depression period can last for a long time. It may be characterized by crying, changes in mood, a loss of appetite, or the ability to sleep. The desire to reminisce about the deceased is also a common theme and should be embraced as it can help repair and rebuild.
Depression should not be faced alone. Make sure you talk with friends, family, or if they are not available then get professional help.
Acceptance is the final part of the grieving process. This is the point at which the persona accepts their loved one has gone, and will not return. They will find ways to celebrate the deceased’s time on earth and look positively at the relationship they had.
In this period, it is perfectly acceptable to feel sad. However, the ability to move on and rebuild life will start to appear.
Learning to Cope
Moving through the six stages of grief can be tough, and they are not set in stone. A grieving person may find themselves between two or three of the sections or regress back into another. The most important factor is that coping mechanisms are tried and the person is moving forward, even if this is a slow process.
If you are grieving, you should aim to share your feelings with friends and family. Do not be afraid to reach out and talk or reminisce with people around you. You could also share your feelings in a personal journal, or creative activity that lets you process your thoughts.
You must also try not to rush the process. Going back to your regular activities before you are fully ready will do more damage than you think. It may end up in you suppressing your grief, causing long term problems.
In fact, avoid making any big changes while you are still grieving. You may feel that you have to change, as life can never be the same. However, your mind is not at the best point to be making life-altering decisions, so hold off until you know you are healed.
Finally, make sure you reminisce in a positive way. Collect pictures, documents, belongings, and writing from the deceased and share them with others. Do something positive that they would have approved of, such as helping a charity they care about or taking part in some of the activities they loved.
What to Avoid
Ignoring your pain is never a good idea. All this does is put it on the backburner. Inevitably, it will surface at a later date and manifest in a way you would not wish it to.
You should also try to avoid pushing your grief through too fast. If you do this, you will not fully come to terms with the loss. Let it progress at a natural pace and embrace the process, no matter how hard it can be.
Take Your Time
In summary, recovering from a loss takes time. Learning to cope is not a one size fits all solution, and some stages of the process may be easier than others. However, by moving through the person will eventually come to terms with the loss and be able to continue their life.
If you need help recovering from a loss, then contact Bird and Associates. Our psychological services provide compassionate care for children, adults, couples, and families. Contact us today to discuss your loss and let us help you to heal.