by: Katie Donahoo
Grief is not an emotion, it is a response to loss. When we lose someone or something we experience grief, which includes many emotions. The Kubler-Ross model, The 5 Stages of Grief, is a framework for the different emotions one experiences as they process a loss. The 5 stages of grief are not linear, meaning they do not necessarily progress from stage 1 to stage 2, etc. The stages are fluid and a person experiencing grief will ebb and flow through the stages, sometimes repeating stages, as they heal.
The 5 Stages of Grief
Denial – During this stage of grief people often feel disbelief about the loss that just occurred. They may feel numb or experience a surreal feeling. Thoughts like, “This can’t be happening.” may fill their minds.
Anger – During this stage the person grieving may experience anger towards themself, others, or the deceased (if there was a death). Resentments at self or others may be experienced in this stage. Thoughts such as, “Why is this happening to me?” are common.
Bargaining – During this stage a person may try to do whatever they can to either prevent an impending loss or get back what they have lost. Valiant efforts to find cures or re-establish relationships may occur. Thoughts of “I will do anything to change this.” mark this stage.
Depression – Overwhelming sadness is the hallmark of the depression stage. Crying, avoidance, and isolation may be seen in this stage. Thoughts of “What’s the point of going on?” may be had. This stage is often what people assume grief looks like. If this stage lasts for a long period of time or is more intense than the others it can be cause for concern. Often, once a person has experienced the depression stage they are able to move into acceptance immediately following.
Acceptance – In this stage a person has come to accept the loss as a fact and realizes they will be able to move forward, even if it’s difficult. Thoughts like, “I know it happened. I can’t change it. I need to cope now.” occur in this stage.
A person may find themselves angry one day, depressed the next, and trying to bargain the following. A person may get to acceptance within a month following a loss and six months later find themself in a depressed stage again. There is no ‘right way’ to grieve or experience the stages.
Helpful tips for coping with and processing through grief include:
*Rituals – participate in memorials, funerals, and other intentional activities to honor the loss.
*Emotional Acceptance – allow yourself to feel your emotions without stuffing them. Have a good cry or scream out loud, whatever you need to get the emotions out of you.
*Talk About It – when you can, find a loved one or trusted friend with whom to talk about your loss. Share how it has effect you and how you are feeling.
*Letter to the Lost – write a ‘goodbye’ letter to the person or thing you have lost sharing how the loss has impacted you and how you feel about going on without it/them.
While there is no official timeline for grieving, it is important to process your grief to avoid prolonged suffering or trauma. Should your symptoms be intense and last longer than 3 months OR if your symptoms are mild to moderate and last more than 6 months please seek professional help.