The Stages of Grief and How to Deal with Loss
Photo by Cristian Newman
Originally Posted On: https://www.wishope.org/2020/06/05/the-stages-of-grief-and-how-to-deal-with-loss/
Grief is a natural, personal, and individualized response to loss, which is the emotional anguish that one feels when someone or something you love is taken away from you. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. The more significant the loss is to you, the more intense the grief you may feel. How one person grieves depends on multiple factors, including one’s life experiences, coping style, faith, and how significant the loss was to you. Although the pain of loss may feel overpowering, there are healthy ways to deal with the grieving process.
WHAT TYPES OF LOSS CAUSE GRIEF?
Although most people think of grief as dealing with the death of a loved one, any loss may cause grief, including:
- Divorce, breakup, or loss of a friendship
- Health issues leading to loss of motor functions or physical wellbeing
- Losing a job
- Experiencing a miscarriage
- The death of a pet
- Losing one’s financial stability
- Dealing with a loved one’s serious illness
- Losing one’s feeling of safety after a traumatic experience
- Selling the family home
- Losing the opportunity of pursuing one’s dream
- Moving away from home
- Changing jobs
- Graduating from college
Typically, grief is experienced as a result of a loss. Feelings of grief may impact physical, psychological, and/or mental health in many ways, including:
- Difficulty sleeping, changes in sleeping patterns, or fatigueNausea
- Foggy or clouded thinking
- Lowered immunity
- Weight gain or weight loss
- Body aches and pains
- Feelings of shock
- Guilt and/or shame
- Disbelief or denial
- Profound sadness
HEALTHY WAYS TO COPE WITH GRIEF
In time, finding and implementing healthy coping skills to deal with the pain of grief may ease your sorrow and help you come to terms with your loss. Maintaining consistency with these coping techniques may reconnect you with your purpose and, eventually, help you feel equipped to move on with your life. Unavoidably, the grieving process takes time and healing is gradual. Some individuals may feel better in a matter of weeks, while others may take months or even years to feel relief from their grief. Some tips for coping with grief include:
- An acceptance that life experiences may trigger your grief causing you to feel overwhelmed with multiple unexpected emotions. For example, life milestones, holidays, or anniversaries may rekindle memories of loss and feelings of grief.
- Acknowledge your pain and allow yourself to feel your feelings instead of suppressing them. Since feelings associated with grief can be uncomfortable, you may find yourself wanting to hide from them. Unfortunately, you cannot avoid them forever. Ignoring them will only cause them to bubble up and possibly even erupt in fits of rage or sadness. Unresolved grief may also lead to anxiety, depression, health problems, and substance use disorders.
- Know that your grieving process will be personal and unique to you, due to your coping skills, life experiences, faith, and the significance of the loss.
- Support your emotional self by caring for yourself physically, especially since the mind and body are connected. Feeling physically healthy allows you to cope better emotionally. Do not turn to self-medication with drugs or alcohol, since this could pave the road to a substance use disorder (SUD).
- Try to find face-to-face support from your social circle and the people that care about you. Be open to seeking professional help if you find it necessary.
- Educate yourself on the difference between grief and depression so that you can recognize them within yourself, and seek the appropriate support.
THE FIVE STAGES OF GRIEF
In 1969, psychiatrist Elizabeth Kübler-Ross developed her theory on the five stages of grief. These stages were based on her studies on the feelings experienced in relation to patients dealing with terminal illnesses. Today, Kübler-Ross’s ‘five stages of grief’ model is used in association with all types of loss. Furthermore, instead of thinking of grief as a series of stages, it should be thought of as more of a roller coaster of emotions, full of highs and lows. The five stages of grief are described below:
- Denial helps us to survive the loss, in which the world becomes overwhelming and meaningless. Our world no longer makes sense to us, and we are in a state of denial and shock. We may become numb, wondering how to continue on. Often, we wonder if we even can and/or why we should go on. We merely try to find a way to get through the day.
- Anger must be felt for denial to dissipate. Anger hides our pain and may make us lash out at friends, family, and/or ourselves.
Bargaining typically occurs after denial and anger. Often, at this point we desperately want life to return to the way it was, so we pray or ask a higher power to take back what has happened if we promise something in return. We may become lost in a haze of “what if” or “if only” statements.
- Depression is characterized by a feeling of so much sadness that we don’t want to do anything. Low energy and loss of interest in activities are common symptoms.
- Acceptance, often confused with feeling “OK” with what has happened, is actually about accepting the reality of our loss. We will never be “OK” with this new reality, but we accept that it is our new normal and find peace within ourselves.
ARE YOU SEEKING HELP WITH YOUR GRIEF AND POSSIBLE SUBSTANCE ABUSE?
Whatever your loss may be, there is no shame in experiencing it and allowing yourself to feel the emotions that come up. There is no “appropriate” way to grieve. Regardless of who, or what, you have lost, if it was significant to you, that is all that matters. Judging your grief and your process will only cause more pain. Your experience of the five stages of grief will be unique to you, often becoming less intense and less frequent as time passes. Still, it takes time to work through grief. Even years after experiencing a loss, we may still face a strong sense of grief, particularly at special life events like childbirth or a wedding. Unfortunately, these painful feelings may lead to vulnerabilities and subsequent substance use disorders, or SUDs. You don’t have to navigate this alone. WisHope Recovery is here to help. If you are struggling, call us today at (262)701-7257.