Loss is an unfortunate truth we all face at different phases of our lives. When you lose a loved one, you undergo tremendous change while trying to reach a state of understanding. The framework of bereavement has prevalently been broken down into five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. We take a closer look at each of these phases, so you can understand how or why you’re grieving. If you know someone who has lost a loved one, knowing these five stages can help you to be a better source of comfort during this difficult time.
In the wake of losing a loved one, immediate responses can be emotional in many forms. Denial is one of the most common defense mechanisms employed against loss, allowing us to pace our feelings and absorb only as much as we can handle. Denial helps us to survive loss, especially in terms of loved ones who were dear to us. Denying the reality of the situation is expected, especially if a loved one was lost too soon or in a tragic accident. Their absences are fraught with confusion and rejection. Each of us finds ways to get through the days following death. As you begin to open up to friends and family members, ask questions, or acknowledge grief, you will begin to feel stronger.
Rejection is a natural reaction to death, but what follows is unique to each individual. Anger is necessary to healing, allowing us to compartmentalize how loss makes us feel and how we move on. Anger may be directed at friends, family members, doctors, the deceased, yourself, God, or any spiritual being. What lies beneath anger is pain. You may feel abandoned or deserted at first, left by your loved one to lead a life with so many questions, so many fears. However natural a reaction anger may be, society has taught us to fear it or reign it in. In terms of grief, anger can also be seen as strength. Just remember that your friends and family members are struggling with grief in their own unique ways, and directing your anger at them may be essential to bridging the communication gap, but you should try to be sensitive to their own healing processes.
The next stage of grief comes in the form of bargaining. We often bargain while our loved ones are still alive, willing to do anything to keep them safe. This stage of grief is similar to a maze, a cyclical series of questioning: what if, if only, or how. You may feel guilty about experiences when you could have been nicer or more helpful. Guilt is a companion to grief, the desire for a second chance to improve or change the relationship you shared. While it is inevitable to wonder how things might have been different, internal negotiation is one of the healthiest ways to cope with pain. Bargaining can last for weeks or months, but we never leave each phase of grief in a linear fashion.
While bargaining after a loss, the present is ever more apparent. You may feel an emptiness inside as your grief enters a deeper dimension. There are many kinds of depression. The first is withdrawn, a fog that may feel as though it will last forever. There are practical implications to loss that you will be left to face. Beyond the costs of funeral expenses and final arrangements, it can be difficult enough to get used to life without your loved one there. Private depression is another form of despair that prepares you for separation. If you are struggling with a loss on your own, you may need a few words of encouragement or a simple embrace to remind you that you’re not alone.
Depending on the degree or manner of loss, there is a fair chance that you might not reach acceptance as quickly as others. Acceptance is often confused with the notion of being emotionally stable after losing a loved one. Instead, this stage entails accepting the reality and permanence that your loved one is physically gone. Even if you accept the loss, it is normal to feel traces of anger or depression. Acceptance is about learning to live without your loved one nearby, while remembering all the good times you shared and what made him or her so special in this lifetime. By living your life, you are not betraying your loved one. You are simply listening to your needs instead of settling in denial, growing, and learning to enjoy all the small moments that make life so wonderful.
Navigating the Stages of Grief
Please understand that grief is unique, and these stages affect everyone differently and at different times. Everyone experiences loss at different times in their lives, across many cultures and belief systems. Losing a loved one, whether it’s an immediate family member, a spouse, or a favorite pet, is never easy. Denial, anger, bargaining, and depression are all necessary to reach a state of acceptance. You are never alone, and it is perfectly normal to reach out to friends and family as you navigate the different stages of grief. If you have any questions about this article, please do not hesitate to reach out to Legacy Headstones for additional information or further assistance in selecting a headstone for your loved one.