Blog

Understanding Grief and Loss

How can this article help?

In this article, we will be going over the Five Stages of Grief. These were first developed by Swiss-American psychiatrist Elizabeth Kübler-Ross, who proposed these stages as what one may go through during the process of learning to live with the loss of loved ones. They can act as tools to help us express what we may be feeling, but this experience can be different for everyone. Some individuals may not go through all stages, or they may go through them in a different order. The speed at which individuals experience the stages will also vary from person to person. The point of this framework is to provide some knowledge as to how grief may work, helping those in need to be better equipped for coping with loss.  

The Five Stages of Grief

After the death of a loved one, you may go through a range of emotions. The following depicts the five-stage model: 

1. Denial

For some, denial is their initial reaction to loss. Contrary to some expectations, experiencing this emotion can be beneficial after losing loved ones. It can help us survive and cope with the fact that they are no longer with us. During this stage, you may be in a state of shock and numbness. Being in denial helps to pace feelings of grief and can be seen as a way of absorbing only as much as you can manage.2

2. Anger

Another emotion is anger. It may be directed towards friends, family, doctors who try to help, the loved one who left you, and even towards yourself.  It is natural to feel this emotion, because after experiencing numbness and distance from the rest of the world, anger can act as an anchor. It can become a source of strength, or something to hold onto. Although it may come from an irrational place, the strength of anger is an important part of the healing process, because more often than not, it can be better to feel something rather than nothing

3. Bargaining

Feelings of vulnerability can cause attempts to bargain with a higher power, such as a deity, to bring your loved one back. This stems from wanting life to be restored to what it was before, or wanting to go back in time to stop certain events from occurring. Guilt often accompanies this type of behaviour. As you agonise over the “what if’s” and “if only’s” of the situation, you may end up directing blame towards yourself.

4. Depression

Here, your focus transitions back into the present. In this stage, you might experience grief on an enormous level, and it can feel as though it will never end. People tend to shrink away from regular routines, and withdraw into a bubble of consuming sadness, often questioning the purpose of life and moving on without their lost loved one. Far too often, depression after a loss is seen by others as unnatural or a sign of mental illness. Although in some cases, a loss can lead to clinical depression or make existing symptoms worse, in many cases this stage of grief is different to experiencing a mental illness.  In fact, it is a perfectly appropriate and understandable response to the loss of a loved one, and can also be seen as a step in the process of healing. 

5. Acceptance

The term ‘acceptance’ is not to be confused with ‘happiness’. Rather, it is a period of coming to terms with the loss of your loved one, accepting the reality of it and recognising its permanency. Accepting it doesn’t mean that things are “all right” again; instead, we learn to live with it. Calmness and emotional stability are key features of this stage – you begin to live again, reinvesting in your relationships and taking care of your own needs. 

References:

Kessler, David. “The Five Stages of Grief.” Grief.com, grief.com/the-five-stages-of-grief/.