Losing someone or something we love is very painful. We may experience a multitude of difficult emotions and it may seem as if the pain and sadness we’re experiencing will never subside. Grief is a natural response to loss. It is the emotional suffering we feel when something or someone we love is taken away. The more significant the loss, the more intense the grief will be.
WHAT IS GRIEF?
Grief is a normal, healthy response to a loss. It describes the emotions we feel when we lose someone or something important to us. People grieve for many different reasons, including death of a loved one, changes in relationships, changes in health or even changes in our way of life.
The stages of grief reflect a variety of reactions that may arise as we to make sense of how a loss affects us.
1. Denial – “This can’t be happening to me.”
Denial is the first of the five stages of grief. It is a perfectly natural defense mechanism that helps us to survive the loss by protecting us from experiencing the intensity of the loss. In this stage, the world becomes meaningless and devastating, and life ceases to make sense. We are in a state of shock and denial that helps us to cope and makes survival possible.
2. Anger – “Why is this happening? Who is to blame?”
Anger is a necessary stage of the healing process, and can manifest in various ways. When we deal with emotional upset, the pain we feel will cause us to be angry with ourselves and/or with others, especially those close to us.
3. Bargaining – “Make this not happen, and in return I will ____.”
In this stage, we want to go back in time and have life returned to the way it was, with our loved one with us. We may have unrelenting thoughts about what could have been done to prevent the loss. If this stage is not correctly resolved, strong feelings of remorse or guilt may hinder the healing process, as guilt often accompanies bargaining.
4. Depression – “I’m too sad to do anything. Life is meaningless.”
The loss of a loved one is a very depressing situation, and our depression is a normal response. Although this depressive stage feels as though it will last forever, it is important to understand that this depression is not a sign of mental illness, but an appropriate response to a great loss.
5. Acceptance – “I’m at peace with what happened”
This stage varies according to our situation, and acceptance is often confused with the belief that we are “OK” with what has happened. Eventually, we may be able to accept various feelings and recognize the fact that we’ve lost a loved one. There is no time limit to the grieving process. We may start to reach out to others and begin to live again, but we cannot do so until we have given grief its time. The single most important factor in healing from loss is having support from others, and it is important to express our feelings when grieving. Wherever the support comes from, we need to accept it and do not grieve alone. There is no “right” way to grieve. Everyone is different, so it is important to give ourselves time to experience loss in our own way, while taking care of ourselves in the process.