Few of us can escape the agony of losing someone precious to us; the pain more physically unbearable than we could have imagined the emotional impact more overwhelming than could be believed and the time taken to heal longer than seems fair. We wonder how life goes on so normally for others around us when the world has lost it’s meaning for us.
The first rule is that there are no rules when it comes to grieving, we each of us face this difficult journey alone no matter what support or help we have. The journey has to be faced and completed and we have to just do the best we can.
That said, many of us pass through the same or similar pathways, below I am going to explore these stages; I hope it may help normalise the emotional roller-coaster you may be experiencing.
This model of grief stages was introduced by Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in 1969, initially to help people cope with terminal illness.
Shock and disbelief. Your brain may refuse to register the news. You may feel numb or emotionally frozen upon hearing bad news. Often, this shock initially protects you from experiencing the inevitable pain of loss.
Denial can quickly follow the shock; you may try to deny that the tragedy has occurred. Often you may refusal to accept the facts or try blocking out the reality. This stage is as unpredictable as all the other stages; it can last as long as you need it to.
The feelings of unfairness are one of the hardest emotions to cope with. The futile anger and powerlessness can overwhelm us and make us feel that we are losing ourselves to forces alien to us.
We yearn for satisfaction and relief and knowing that nothing can ease our anger increases our frustration; however, this stage reoccurs throughout the process, eventually giving us the energy to face moving on.
Here, people frequently bargain with “higher powers” to bring back their loved one. Often this takes the form of focusing on what you or others could have done differently to stop losing you loved one. Folk also think about what could be happening right now if things had not been lost, how wonderful life was before all the pain.
This can be a very difficult time, often experiencing the reality of the impact and for us and others watching it can be unbearable.
Depression is normal and ought to be expected and respected; it sets in when you begin to accept the reality of your situation. You may feel lonely and brooding as sadness kicks in. The enormousness of your experiences may overwhelm you, causing feelings of deep melancholy, uncertainty and a sense of finality.
We often seek companionship at this time, seeking ways out of the darkness, forced to explore alternatives to this despair. We reach out to people, people who have never left our sides. We may seek medical or psychological support and frequently return to the comfort of our usual routine.
If grief is the struggle to deal with the loss of something cherished, acceptance represents by contrast – a sense of recognition of the inner peace and tranquillity that comes with the letting go of that struggle.