Grief is a process that we all go through after losing a loved one. However, just because we all go through it at some point in our lives doesn’t mean it’s not difficult. Continuing on with our lives, especially when we don’t know what to do with the pain, can feel impossible.
Grief models can help us in understanding grief and what to expect during the healing process. Let’s discuss how the seven stages of grief model works and how you can find your zest for life again.
Grieving Process Methods
A bereaved person feels a normal reaction to the pain of loss, called grief. However, everyone grieves differently. We all feel things differently and may process our grief with different coping strategies.
Not everyone goes through five stages or seven stages or twelve steps of grief. However, no one suffering a significant loss can decide one day to move on and feel instant happiness. Everyone experiences a grief reaction and goes through some stages of grief until they find more peace about their loss.
Seven Stages of Grief
1- Shock and Denial Stage
A grieving person’s initial reaction to a loss is generally disbelief and numbness. Our body gives us this emotional protection while we process what has happened. It’s our way of beginning to understand that we’ve suffered a significant loss.
Others may not understand how our natural emotion is lacking immediately after a death in the family. Others may expect you to cry and feel distraught. And some people do experience an emotional release very soon after a loss.
However, many individuals find that early denial and numbing is a coping mechanism as they see family and friends and handle planning a funeral or memorial.
We all experience different stages of normal grief. You are normal if you don’t feel much after a death or vacillate quickly between painful emotions and numbness.
2- Pain and Guilt Stage
In the second stage of grief, the reality of our loss begins to sink in. The pain can feel unbearable. We may have trouble sleeping and lose our appetite. We may find that we’re more irritable and short-tempered than usual.
It’s also common to feel guilty during this stage. We might blame ourselves for what happened or for not doing more to prevent the loss. We might even be angry with our loved one for leaving us.
All of these emotions are normal and part of the grieving process. However, it’s essential to find healthy ways to express them. Bottling up our emotions can lead to depression and other mental health issues.
Those who’ve been through grief before know it’s easy to get stuck in continually feeling the pain and retracing your loss.
If you feel guilty about your relationship with the person who passed away, you may keep reliving how you could have done better. If you’re grieving a suicide, it’s normal to feel like you contributed to the death, making this stage even more difficult.
It’s good to remind yourself that we all fail in our relationships in one way or another. No one gets it all right. If you continue to beat yourself up for being a human and can’t process these emotions, find empathetic friends or a grief counselor. Others who will listen to your worries can help you feel your way through your guilt and pain.
Some find this the most challenging stage of grief to make it through, so if you’re struggling, find help. Grief support is available at no cost to residents of Chatham, Durham, Franklin, Granville, Harnett, Johnston, Orange, and Wake counties.
3- Anger and Bargaining Stage
The third stage of grief is often called the “anger stage.” This is often when the “why me” questions start. You may be angry with yourself, others, and even your loved one for leaving you.
You may try to bargain your way out of pain by making deals with God or the universe. For example, you might say that if your loved one returned, you’d never take them for granted again.
It’s normal to feel angry and to try to bargain your way out of grief. However, it’s crucial to find healthier ways to express your emotions. Yelling at others or bottling up our feelings can lead to even more problems.
Some people find this stage of grief the hardest to get through. If you’re struggling, try praying or writing in a journal. Or find a grief support group or counselor to talk with.
Counselors and good friends who understand what experiencing grief is like can help you work through your anger and bargaining.
4- Depression, Reflection, and Loneliness Stage
During the fourth “depression” stage of grief, we may feel hopeless and lose interest in what we used to enjoy. We may withdraw from our friends and family and stop taking care of ourselves. It’s not uncommon to feel like life is no longer worth living and that you will never enjoy your life again.
This stage is often a time of reflection, when we look back on our loved one’s life and what they meant to us. We may also start to worry about our own mortality.
It’s normal to feel a deep sadness and experience loneliness during grief. However, if these feelings last for more than a few weeks, it’s vital to talk through your feelings with others who understand.
See a grief or mental health counselor if your feelings become more than you can cope with or if you think about ending your life.
Talking with a counselor about your grief can help you see whether your journey is normal and find ways to cope with unbearable feelings of loss. If needed, a counselor can also refer you for medical treatment for this stage of your grief. Depression can be a mental illness with symptoms including:
- Body aches and pains
- Interminable sadness
- Lack of energy
- Anxiety or agitation
- Feeling worthless
- Overwhelming guilt
- Trouble concentrating
- Suicidal thoughts
- Constant thoughts about death
If you continually reflect on your loss and can’t find joy in anything, even briefly, you may struggle with clinical depression, including physical symptoms. Find grief support services if you wonder if your grief is progressing normally.
5- The Upward Turn Stage
The fifth stage of grief is when you may start to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Often, physical symptoms lessen and begin to lift.
You may feel guilty for enjoying your life and still feel overwhelmed with sadness sometimes.
However, you may also feel less focused on your loss and more interested in the present. You may start to reconnect with friends and family or find aspects of your life enjoyable again.
It’s normal to feel like you’re moving forward during this stage of grief. However, you may still have good and bad days.
6- The Reconstruction Stage (Working Through Grief)
The sixth stage of grief is a more significant upward turn when you start to rebuild your life after loss. This reconstruction stage may bring a new job, hobby, or group of friends.
You may still think about your loved one often and feel sadness when you do. However, you can enjoy many aspects of your life again and find meaning in your experiences.
7- Acceptance and Hope Stage
The seventh and final stage of grief is when you come to terms with your loss. You can accept that your loved one is gone and start to see your life without them.
You may still have days where you feel overwhelmed. However, you know that these feelings won’t last forever and that you will be okay.
In this last stage, you may feel more hopeful about the future and start to make plans again. You’re able to focus on the present and find joy in your life once more.
The Grief Process is Not Linear
The seven stages of grief are a model for what you may experience after loss. Studying typical aspects of grief can help you see that your grief journey is a normal experience.
It’s important to remember that everyone grieves differently, and there is no right or wrong way of experiencing grief.
While society, in general, may give you the message that you need to keep moving forward, those who’ve been through a terrible loss understand that you need to feel and express your feelings before you can heal.
If you find yourself constantly thinking about your loved one or what could have been, it’s essential to talk with a counselor. Often, unresolved feelings can lead to depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders.
Grief counseling can help you understand your feelings and give you tools to cope through the stages of grief. If you’re struggling to handle your loss, don’t hesitate to seek help.
Some individuals suffer from a prolonged grief disorder that may last years or even decades. If you feel stuck in the stages of grief with no hope, a mental health professional may diagnose you with complicated grief.
Persistent complex bereavement disorder is a DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th ed.) diagnosis assigned to individuals who experience an unusually disabling or prolonged response to bereavement. (1)
Counselors specializing in grief can help you see whether your stages of grief are typical or if you need additional medical treatment.
We Can Help
At Renaissance Funeral Home and Crematory, we help you and your family members plan for what’s next during the early stages of grief. We help create beautiful and memorable events to celebrate an individual’s life. Getting together with others who understand your loss can help all of you remember and grieve together.
Contact us today to get started making your plans or set up a tour of our chapel or state-of-the-art cremation center. We would love to talk with you about your loss and help you move forward with your plans during this difficult time.