Have you lost a loved one?
Did a parent, sibling, child – friend, co-worker, even a pet pass recently? Feeling the loss can be overwhelming and the grief can last months, years and sometimes a lifetime.
You may be in denial, feeling angry, depressed. And depending on the circumstances of death, there may be guilt that you are still here.
Grieving too long can adversely affect your life because you stop living the way you used to. Maybe you don’t laugh or even smile as much.
Depending on how long you have been grieving, you may not know how else to feel and so you stay stuck; because even though it is uncomfortable, it is comforting in some way.
But, if the grieving is causing problems in your life, it may be time to address it and find a way to get unstuck.
Understanding the stages of grieving may help you to identify where you are in the process of recovery. Once you know that, then taking the appropriate action to get help may be easier.
Stages of Grief
The mental health theory standard of grief stages was developed by psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler -Ross. She suggested that we go through five distinct stages after the loss of a loved one which are – denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Other models include shock and numbness, yearning and searching, pain and guilt, despair and disorganization, depression and loneliness, the upward turn and reorganization and recovery.
Denial is a common first stage. It is a protective state that helps to minimize the overwhelming pain of loss, thus putting at bay the emotional pain of the experience. When loss is unexpected and sudden, it can be hard to believe that this important person in our lives is gone – especially when we may have just spoken to them the day, or week before.
This stage can be associated with a level of shock that creates emotional numbness because what happened is just impossible to accept. The numbness helps us to cope with the myriad of emotions that would normally surface that can be overwhelming. This can lead to stress levels that can lead to physical symptoms, which add to the difficulty of the time.
When we are in denial, our reality shifts and it can take our minds time to adjust to the new reality. The memories of the person we lost may make us wonder how we can move forward in our lives without them. The imagery of the memories can be painful and the denial stage helps to slow this process down so that we can worth through each memory one at a time to avoid the overwhelm.
Denial helps us to pretend the reality of the loss is not real while we also try to absorb and understand what happened.
We may experience extreme emotional turmoil while trying to adjust to the new reality of our loss. The anger is an emotional outlet while we process what happened and what is to come.
Sometimes anger is a mask that keeps us from admitting that we are scared. Anger hides vulnerability and is an emotion that is understandable, more acceptable and expected by others. It is an emotion that can be expressed with less fear of judgement or rejection. And yet it may be directed toward other loved ones or even yourself as questions surface about what happened or who was responsible.
When we begin to release the emotions related to a loss, anger tends to be the first emotion felt. Unfortunately, depending on to whom or what it is directed, it can create a level of isolation as it is difficult for others to approach us despite our need for connection, reassurance and comfort.
Bargaining may occur before or after someone has passed. Either way, there is a desperation about the loss and we will do anything to minimize the pain. We want the situation to change and will do anything to make it happen.
The Bargaining is normally directed toward a higher power in order to procure a different outcome. It will involve promises in the nature of “If you do this, then I will do that”. Because of our humanness, and the helpless feeling of not being able to control what has happened, it is a last-ditch attempt to change the situation and create a better result. We believe that only the abilities that a higher power has are strong enough to create a different outcome.
During bargaining, we focus on our own faults and regrets. We note all the times we may have caused the person we are losing pain. Common memories may include times we said things we did not mean and did things to hurt them and we wish things had been different.
Yearning and Searching
As we seek to fill the void left by our loved one, we may begin to look for comfort. We seek out connection with the one we’ve lost through memories, photos, places and things that are associated with them. There is pain and comfort in this process and we become very preoccupied with the person we have lost.
Pain and guilt may be a part of this grieving phase as the pain of the loss sets in. During this emotional time, anger may begin to dissipate. It may be replaced by a sense of guilt as we feel more of a need of support and connection from friends and family.
Depression and Loneliness
When the loss of that special person really sets in, it can make you feel lonely and may lead to depression. The reality of your loss causes you to find it difficult to understand the depth of what has happened and in finding hope for the future. Just when we need others the most, we may retreat from them as we feel an uncertainty and an aimlessness as we continue to process our pain.
This is a stage that can keep us stuck. When there is loss of hope, and depression sets in, there is a detachment from friends, family and society that may tend to perpetuate the condition. The longer we stay in this stage, the more detrimental to our emotional, mental and physical health because we don’t feel like doing anything with anybody at any time. Many times, the only way out of it is when family and friends intervene and insist that we take some action to help us rise above the depression.
The Upward Turn & Reorganization
When we turn the corner and begin to adjust to our new live, the intensity of the pain from the loss begins to recede and we feel calmer. We feel more hopeful that we can begin to feel again and our minds and hearts can be restored.
This stage involves taking action in an effort to move forward as ideas and opportunities for new activities surface. We recognize that we have a new normal and work through any remaining issues caused by the loss.
Regardless of the characteristics of the various grief models, acceptance is the final stage of grief recovery. We may no longer feel the loss, but we are accepting of the reality of our situation. The emotional pain and struggle to make it different is gone, despite a level of sadness and denial that may remain.
In this stage there is an acceptance of the loss which makes room for feelings of hope for what the future will bring. Some emotions may linger, but you know that it is time and that you are ready to move on.
Length of Grief Stages
The length of each grief stage is as varied as there are people. Some may go through them in a matter of weeks, others months or years. There is no wrong way and all are normal for each of us.
People grieve differently. Not all will go through all of the stages or even experience them in the order listed. We may even move through several stages and then go back to a previous one before being fully able to move to the next stage.
Each of us has our own unique relationship with the loved one we have lost, the emotions we feel and the timeline needed to fully grieve. There is no right or wrong way. Take the time that is needed and don’t be bound by the expectations of others as you work through the grieving process.
What you can do to lessen the emotional pain and relieve the anger, guilt, regret and sadness of grief? Here is a short list that may help.
- Take care of yourself by getting plenty of sleep, eating right, exercising, drinking lots of water, praying or meditating, crying, journaling, and making lists of important tasks so you don’t forget them. When you feel yourself getting tense or overwhelmed, breathe. Ask for help when you need. Find things to laugh about, participate in life with friends and family, go at your own pace and most of all find whatever you can to be thankful for.
- Seek guidance from your religious community. Leaders of religious institutions can be very helpful with help you move through grief with counseling and group sessions of people in your community. They can guide you to look to a higher power for direction and comfort.
- Group therapy is a combination of therapy with the added bonus of being in a group of people who are experiencing loss. This offers a level of comradery and the realization that you are not alone in your journey.
- Individual counseling is the most common go to therapy. It is a place where you can let it all out about your loved one and your unbiased therapist may help you to move through the grieving process in a gentler manner and potentially faster.
A Faster Alternative
All of the above can be helpful as you go through the stages of grieving your loved one that are specific to you. Over time, and with consistency you can be successful at returning to a place of normalcy.
An approach that can shorten the grief process and help you to release the emotional pain more thoroughly is also available. It is called Emotional Freedom Techniques (also known as EFT or Tapping). It is an alternative therapy that is used worldwide for not only grief and loss, but many other health and wellness issues.
EFT is so effective because it helps to reduce the emotional intensity resulting from traumas of all kinds. And, let’s face it, the loss of a loved one can be very traumatic and is rife with emotion. Freedom from the emotions of sadness, anger, guilt, remorse, and others that result from the death of a loved one is ultimately what you want, right? That is what EFT delivers and does so in much less time than most conventional therapies. You get the emotional relief but still retain the find memories. It is the best of both worlds.
You can learn more about EFT on my website or you may attend my upcoming Master Your Emotions workshop and participate in a live EFT session. In the Master Your Emotions workshop, I take a deep dive into the affects of emotions relating to stress, chronic illness, pain, weight loss, addiction and more. Grief and Loss is the October 11, 2022 topic where I will be reviewing more about the different kinds of loss, the grieving process and how EFT can provide emotional relief faster than other methods.
Here is a short testimonial from someone who used EFT to help with grief:
“Before EFT I felt like I was walking through concrete and not really living, due to loss and grief. Now, I feel so much lighter, clearer, and free to experience joy even though my circumstances haven’t changed. I’m continuing to use the tapping to get through things–and work on other things as they come up. It’s an amazing tool and I’m so grateful I was able to learn it!”
–Renee W., Oregon
If you would like to “get over it so you can get on with it” I invite you to contact me with any questions you may have or to schedule a free consultation. If you would like to attend the Master Your Emotions workshop, you may learn more about it and register here.
Life Wellness Coach
“Helping you get over it so you can get on with it.”