We all face grief at one point in life. Grief may follow the loss of a loved one, friend, or family pet. Loss in any form can be stressful and cause a major emotional crisis. You may experience a broad spectrum of emotions that you can’t explain or understand. In this article, we examine the different stages of grief and different ways to cope with your grief regardless of whether the loss was expected or sudden. Keep reading to learn more.
Distinguishing the Stages of Grief
The framework of bereavement has often been broken down into five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. It is important to understand that grief is unique to each person and experience. These stages may affect everyone differently and at different times. The immediate response to death, even when expected, is denial. Denial helps us to survive loss and pace our feelings. Anger may follow, allowing us to compartmentalize how loss makes us feel. Bargaining may take the form of a cyclical series of questioning or guilt over not being able to keep our loved ones safe from death. Once the present becomes ever more apparent, it is not at all uncommon for us to feel depressed. Acceptance is the final stage of grief, but it should not be confused with emotional stability.
Methods of Coping with Your Grief
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. However, you can reach a state of acceptance and learn to enjoy all the small moments that make life so wonderful again.
- Create a ritual: Funerals, memorial services, and other traditions help many people to get through the first few days or weeks of loss. Rituals such as these create a place and time for all that knew your loved one to gather together and share stories or express their sympathies.
- Express your emotions: Denial, anger, and bargaining can often be isolating experiences for people that are coping with grief. Crying can be very cathartic, and it is important to release those emotions that weigh so heavily on your heart. Don’t avoid certain activities, films, or songs because they bring back memories. Let those reminders take a toll on your emotions, and you may feel one step closer to acceptance.
- Share your grief when you can: As we mentioned before, grief can be very isolating. Some people find it helpful to tell stories of loss or talk about the feelings that arise from death. If you’re not ready or capable of talking about your loss, you might consider starting a journal or creating a private tribute to your loved one.
- Preserve your loved one’s memories: Scrapbooks, photo albums, memorial gardens, and other tributes can be comforting to those that have experienced loss. These tangible items can also be tokens of all the years you spent with your loved one. If your loved one passed from an illness, take part in a charity run or walk to honor your loved one’s fight and give hope to those that are struggling with the same illness.
- Seek outside help and support when necessary: Sharing your grief with a close friend or family member can be difficult. You should never feel ashamed of seeking professional assistance or the compassion of a support group, as these outside sources may be the solution you need to open up and reflect on the loss.