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Understanding The Journey Through The Stages Of Grief

How to deal with the 5 stages of grief

Grief, at some point, will have been felt by everyone. It is unavoidable if you lose someone you love. As you work through the suffering, the pain you feel is unbearable, and you may consider there is no end.

You will feel like you are on a roller coaster of emotions. You may feel numb, shocked, angry, sad, depressed, scared and anxious. The grieving process is individual, and there are no set rules. However, it may help to understand some of the stages of grief you will possibly go through.

What Are The Stages of Grief?

The ‘Five Stages of Grief’ model created by psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross has provided an insight into thinking about grief in general and can help people understand the emotions they feel as they go through their journey of loss. Originally formed for assisting people in coming to terms with a terminal illness, today, it is used to help anyone suffering from loss of any nature.

Denial

Denying the death of a loved one can be a coping strategy as the realisation of losing someone takes effect. Thinking the person you love will walk through the door at any time can help to lessen the shock and the unbearable pain. 

You may feel fear of the unknown, even tiny jobs of not knowing how to change the batteries in a smoke alarm may cause you to feel anxious and worry you will look stupid in front of others. 

The cause of all of these feelings is loss. Denying the loss reduces or even eliminates the pain.

Anger

A completely natural feeling to experience when you lose someone. Death seems cruel and unfair. You may have planned your whole future together. Instead, you face the unknown and may redirect uncertainty and pain into anger. Looking for someone to blame, you could lash out at friends, family even inanimate objects like that smoke alarm.

You might even feel angry towards your loved one who has died. You may think, ‘If they had looked after themselves better, this might never have happened.’

You might feel irritability, bitterness, anxiety and impatience. Feeling angry may make you feel guilty, making you more enraged, so the cycle continues.

Remember, it is normal.

Bargaining

In an attempt to hold on to hope and alleviate the intense pain, you might try bargaining with someone of a higher power with influence over the situation. That may be God. 

what is bargaining in grief?

You may feel powerless as a human being and ready to sacrifice anything to regain some control in your life. Seeking help from a more influential position may appear the only way forward. 

Your requests may include ‘What ifs.’ The focus may be on your faults or regrets, and you may start thinking about the idea that you caused the person pain, a way of thinking completely irrational.

Depression

The emotions of sadness, longing and intense pain may arrive in short or long waves and last months or years. Suddenly, your life feels like there is no meaning, no hope. Your bargaining options have diminished.

This stage in the grieving process is a natural response. There is the realisation that you have to face people and life. Your initial emotions of anger have subsided, and you may feel an acute feeling of sadness, a reluctance to move on alone. 

Acceptance

The final stage of grief and loss is acceptance. Although not a definitive end, you may go back and forth between the stages, and some people may never fully accept the loss of a loved one.

However, there may be a glimmer of hope on the horizon, and you may begin to trust in people and life. A hint of wry humour might start to appear. 

You might feel fortunate but not happy. You might start to appreciate the time you have left, the things you would like to experience.

Common Misconceptions

There are often many misconceptions about the stages of grief in death. The five stages of grief are not rigid in order, nor are they limited to a setlist of emotions.

People often worry that they are feeling the wrong emotion at a particular time. This is not true, and anyone can feel any emotion in any order. These stages of grief by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross are a guideline to help people work through the grief process.

The Kübler-Ross Change Curve

To acknowledge the different experiences and emotions in the stages of grief in loss. Over the years, adaptations of the original ‘Five Stages’ recognise people’s journeys as individuals as they grieve. 

Models add stages where the shock is considered a separate stage.

Yearning and searching, a stage where it is natural to look for comfort, to fill the enormous void left. You might attempt to look for comfort by looking through old photos and rekindle fond memories.

Despair and disorganisation when reality hits and you realise your lost one is not returning.

Reorganisation and recovery, with some trepidation, you start to feel hope and attempt to establish some sort of normality.

Learning about loss can help us heal.

“You will never be able to escape from your heart. So it is better to listen to what it has to say” 

(Paulo Coehlo, “The Alchemist.”)