We all go through times of grieving. We may grieve losing our job, not getting the part we wanted, or not performing well on an assignment. We may also go through more traumatic losses like losing a parent, a child, or a loved one.
Psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross created the five stages of grief. We all go through different kinds of grief and complete the grief cycle at different times. There is no way to force someone to get through the stages. Everyone knows what it is like to lose a beloved item but not everyone knows what it is like to lose a loved one.
We should never judge someone because what we do see on the outside is only the tip of the iceberg. The more we understand each stage of the grieving process the better we can comprehend where someone is at and what they may be going through at that time.
When we first lose a loved one, we may try to distract ourselves to cope with the emotional pain. Extreme emotional pain can be almost unbearable to deal with. We may be in denial that our loved one is really gone. We do not want to believe that our companion we talked to just two days ago is gone forever.
Some people may not even cry or react when the news is shared with them because they go into shock. Just as someone in shock may not feel a broken leg right after the break happened, a person who just heard someone they loved passed away may not feel the emotional pain due to shock. Part of this shock is due to being in denial.
We may think we cannot move on in our life without the person. It may take some time to go through the process of loss. “Denial is not only an attempt to pretend that the loss does not exist. We are also trying to absorb and understand what is happening.”Denial is there to protect our minds from taking everything in at once and becoming overwhelmed.
Once our life has started again after losing our loved one and we are back to our regular daily life, anger may set in. We may wonder why our person out of all the people in the world was chosen to go. It is easier to show anger about something instead of fear.
Some people are in this stage for years before they move on to bargaining. It takes a lot of patience and perseverance to get to the point where you tell yourself “everything happens for a reason” and “this will make me stronger” which is why it is easier to be angry about your situation. Some may never find peace with their loss, and that is okay.
When one close to us dies, it opens our eyes to the fact that there is absolutely nothing we can do to get them back. We feel helpless and it may lead us to start bargaining with a higher power.
We feel in a small way we can control the next disaster by promising to be a better person in return for protecting their loved ones.
Bargaining can come in a variety of promises including:
"God, if you can heal this person I will turn my life around."
"I promise to be better if you will let this person live."
"I'll never get angry again if you can stop him/her from dying or leaving me."
It is not healthy to put the blame on ourselves by thinking our faults could have caused the death. This is not true and it leads us to depression.
Once enough time goes by and our panic has settled, the depression settles in. “We start to feel the loss of our loved one more abundantly. The emotional fog begins to clear and the loss feels more present and unavoidable.”
We begin to have sleep disturbances, a loss of energy, and a lack of being social. Depression can become serious and it is not possible to just “get out of bed” and put a smile on your face to get through it.
Those who develop major depressive disorder need help from a specialist to get past this stage. If you are struggling, get some help and stop feeling like you have to get through this alone because you are far from being alone.
The last stage is acceptance. Just because we have accepted our loss does not mean we do not have feelings anymore. The sadness comes in waves. Around the anniversaries such as the person’s birthday, we may feel it strongly, but it does not feel like that every second of every day like it does in the earlier stages.
In this stage, “we are no longer resisting the reality of our situation, and we are not struggling to make it something different.” We have come to terms with what happened and we realize there was nothing we could do.
One of the hardest things we can go through in this life is losing someone close to us. We need to make sure we are respectful and patient with those who are going through the grieving process.
We also need to make sure that the person does not feel alone and that when they are in the depressive stage, they get some help. The only way to get through this is by having friends and family to lean on. Be there for your friends and family who are struggling because they need it.