Grief and loss can be associated with any stage of life. Even the death of a pet or moving to a new house can cause a person to grieve. Grief is associated with any kind of loss or change and will vary in length and intensity.
Grief is a normal, natural part of life. It is important that grief be regarded as a healing process. Grief is the way our minds and bodies process change, whether negative or positive change.
There are seven recognized grief stages. An individual will experience each stage during their grief; however, it may not be in order and some stages may be visited more than once. The stages of grief are:
- Shock or Disbelief that the loss has occurred. “This can’t be happening.”
- Denial is a useful and necessary stage for most people, and can protect us until we are ready to manage the next step. During this stage, a person may busy themselves with tasks or refuse to talk about the change/loss. “This isn’t happening.”
- In the Bargaining stage, the person attempts to reconcile the change, and they may have thoughts of finding ways to recoup the loss or go back and change what’s happened. “I won’t let this happen. Maybe I can still fix it.”
- Guilt is marked by examining one’s own behavior, sometimes feeling responsible for what’s happened. “I should have…”
- Anger is a natural stage everyone must pass. Anger may be directed toward the loss, the person lost, or even a Deity. Anger can be a very uncomfortable stage, especially if a person is unfamiliar with expressing anger in healthy ways. “Somebody should be held responsible.”
- Depression comes and goes throughout the grief process. “Life will never be the same.”
- Acceptance and Reorganization means that you understand your life will never be the same but it will go on with meaning and hope. “I’m going to be okay.”
A person can become stuck if they do not allow their grief process to happen naturally. Therapy can help you identify and sort out your thoughts and feelings, and ensure that you are grieving adaptively, which may include the 3 A’s.
Aware –Acknowledge what you are experiencing. Be honest with yourself.
Accept – It doesn’t have to be labeled as “good” or “bad.” It just is, and it won’t last forever.
Act – Express your thoughts/feelings by writing, talking, artwork, etc. Vigorous exercise or breaking something that’s safe to break can help when we are angry, etc.