What Are The Seven Stages of Grief?
Grief is inevitable at some stage in life. Most people will lose a family member or pet. Sometimes grief comes when you lose something you cherish. The breakup of a long-term relationship is a catalyst for grief.
Not everyone deals with loss in the same way so there are no set criteria or timescale for bereavement. It’s a personal journey. However, the process for overcoming grief typically follows a similar pattern.
Moreover, it is important that you do not ignore traumatic periods of your life. You need to deal with bereavement. Ignoring the situation to stall the pain will only prolong your misery and can lead to psychological problems and ill health.
To aid your recovery, it helps to understand the healing process following a loss. This article outlines the typical stages you go through during the recovery process.
1. Shock and Disbelief
Shock and disbelief is a natural reaction to something you are not expecting. Even in cases where the deceased suffered a long-term illness, the change in circumstance will prompt your brain’s protective mechanism to kick in to avoid you from being overwhelmed.
Feelings of shock and disbelief suspend your pain until you are ready to grieve properly.
How quickly you recover from this first stage will depend on various factors such as age, mental state, how unexpected the loss is, emotional dependency and how close the connection was.
After the initial shock, some people will go into denial. This is another coping mechanism. It’s a subconscious response to suspend belief until the brain can compute your loss without flooding emotions into your central nervous system.
The denial phase can take many forms. The most extreme scenarios are to deny your loved one has gone and continue life as normal.
Others will deny they are grieving because they do not feel affected by the loss. It’s normal not to cry immediately, because you are in a state of shock. But if you have not grieved after several days or even weeks, you are in a state of denial.
A study performed by researchers at Columbia University found that around 7% of people experiencing a bereavement suffer from “complicated grief” – a prolonged period of suffering.
Symptoms often include ruminating and having difficulty comprehending how the loss could have happened. Some people will even blame themselves for not doing more to prevent it.
Clinicians say it’s quite normal for bereaved people to feel a sense of guilt even when a death is out of your control. However, blaming yourself for somebody’s death you could not have avoided will prolong the seven stages of grief.
Researchers at University College London link feelings of shame and guilt with sudden, unnatural and violent deaths.
We live in a society that breeds you to feel guilty even when you are not. Survivor’s guilt will surface with expressions such as “if only I hadn’t done this or if only I had have done that…”
For example, you may feel guilty about something you did to the deceased and never apologised or because you didn’t tell them you loved them often enough.
Thoughts and feelings like these arise naturally even when they are a false truth. We all have a skewed perception of reality because of subconscious programming.
4. Anger and Bargaining
Eventually suppressed emotions will burst on to the surface. This is the turning point and the first step towards overcoming grief.
When disbelief, guilt and shame are forced into the subconscious they typically emerge as anger and frustration. These type of reactions are a sign of emotional release.
You may also find yourself negotiating with yourself in order to shed yourself of guilt, shame and disbelief. This is actually a very important part of the healing process and should be encouraged.
During this stage, allow you anger and frustration to pour forward. If possible try not to direct your anger at other people even though they probably understand.
The goal of this stage is to acknowledge there is nothing you could have done to prevent your loss. You have to accept there is something in life that cannot be changed and you certainly cannot be blamed.
5. Depression, Loneliness, Reflection
After acknowledging your loss, a period of depression can follow. Sadness is a natural emotion to experience when any changes occur in your life no matter how small. Sometimes you feel sad leaving a place of work or a city you’ve become attached to.
The depression stage is often accompanied by moments of reflection and memories. These moments may also be accompanied by feelings of loneliness.
It is during this stage that people are most susceptible to becoming demobilised. Sadness can make you feel lethargic and inert. Although you may feel like you don’t want to leave the house, going out will expedite the healing process.
A good option is to venture into nature. Researchers in ecotherapy have found a link with spending time in nature and positive mental health.
Although they do not understand why just yet, studies showed that being in nature reduces activity in the prefrontal cortex – the part of the brain which is hyperactive in people that are stress, depressed and anxious.
If you’re the type of person that needs to be around people, spend time with a group of close friends. Try to avoid one-on-ones because they can become depressing. It’s a lot easier for a sad person to make the other person sad than it easy for the other person to make someone feel better.
The depression stage is not totally about suffering loss either. A change in life circumstance is a catalyst for anxiety and fear to surface. This is common for people that are bereaving a spouse, pet or someone they spent a lot of time with.
6. Adjustment Period
During the seven stages of grief, there comes a point where you finally recognise you need to move on. Although you have not fully accepted your change in life circumstances that arise from your loss, this is the final turn on the road to recovery.
During this period you will regain the energy and motivation to continue doing things in your life in a normal way. You may still feel pain and loneliness from time to time, you may even have a little cry. But that’s okay, it perfectly natural to feel this way until you adapt to your new life.
The moving on period is an important point to reach. It means you are becoming emotionally and psychologically adjusted. If you don’t find a way to overcome your loss, it will lead to illness and disease.
It can help to seek help from a professional healer that can clear energies that make you feel down. With distant healing, you can do this from the comfort of your own home.
7. Acceptance and Moving On
The final stage in the grieving process is acceptance. During this period you start actively restructuring your life by finding new things to do to fill in the time that would have ordinarily been spent with whatever it is you have lost.
It’s not unusual for people to have a clearing-out session and pack up or give away some of the possessions of a loved one.
Don’t think the out-of-sight-out-of-mind mentality is wrong or insensitive, it’s not. Physical “cleansing” actually helps your emotional cleansing.
Have you ever noticed how you feel mentally better after you have tidied your room or decluttered your loft? A clear-out at the end of a grieving process has the same effect and is sometimes needed to help you overcome your grief and move on.
Do you Help Overcoming the Seven Stages of Grief?
Suffering a significant loss that totally changes your world might feel unbearable in the initial stages. Recognising the seven stages of grief and working towards the next stage will help you mindfully overcome the grieving process.
If you ignore the negative emotions that build up inside you during the seven stages of grief, you risk damaging your health and disturbing your quality of life.
Emotions and psychological processes can be difficult to get hold off. If you need help and advice, don’t be afraid to reach out to people that can offer you comfort and support.