Grief and loss are unavoidable parts of the human experience.
Key Facts About Grief
- Grieving is a process
- The way out of grief is through it
- Grief comes and goes
- It takes time to go through the grief process and that time is highly individualized
- Avoiding the process of grief can lead to serious emotional and psychological issues
- The grief process is highly enhanced with support from others
- By giving oneself time and grace, grief can be processed, and one can move forward in life
The Stages Of Grief
In 1969, psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross first introduced what is now commonly referred to as the Five Stages of Grief. In her 1969 work, On Death and Dying, Kubler-Ross outlined these five stages as representing the feelings of those who have faced death and tragedy based on her many years of work with terminally ill cancer patients.
The stages she outlined were: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance.
The initial stage outlined in Kubler-Ross’ process is denial. Denial is typically characterized by shock and numbness. The psyche develops a protective mechanism that initially causes the impacted individual to respond in disbelief (Kubler Ross stages of grief, n.d.). This actually helps us process what is happening by slowing the onset of our understanding thereby allowing us to pace our emotions gradually over time (Kessler, 2013).
Anger is the second stage of the Kubler-Ross model. Once the reality of what has happened sinks in, shock and numbness become replaced by rage and resentment. Though displayed as anger, this is truly just displaced pain. As the psyche tries to find a rationale for why the loss took place, in the initial stages, often there aren’t not logical/acceptable answers. This lack of sense causes hurt which we experience and project as anger (Kubler Ross stages of grief. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.journey-through-grief.com/kubler-ross-stages-of-grief.html).
The third phase of the Kubler-Ross stages of grief is bargaining. This stage involves going to a higher power and essentially trying to barter for the return of whatever is lost or in the process of being lost.
An example might include asking God to save the life of a loved one pronounced brain dead or trying to make a deal with a boss to get a job back after just being fired. Bargaining can also be experienced as thinking in "what if" or “if only” terms. For instance, “What if I had done this?” or “If only I had done that.” This stems from a desire to return to a life before the loss, so one focuses on scenarios that could have potentially prevented the loss from occurring.
Depression is the fourth stage of the Kubler-Ross model. This stage involves the realization that the loss is, in fact, going to take place. Its characterized by deep sadness and sorrow regarding the loss.
The length of this stage varies from person to person, and its length and severity are heavily influenced by the type of loss experienced (i.e. physical, social, job, etc.). For some, this stage lasts days or weeks, while others can experience this stage for weeks or months.
The final stage of the Kubler-Ross model is acceptance. Acceptance is simply the realization and acknowledgment that the loss has occurred and is reality. This is not to be confused with the belief that a person is in agreement with the loss that has taken place, this simply means there is a realization that nothing can be done to change the outcome. Thus the focus can now shift towards a new normal versus trying to go back or getting stuck in the loss.
Grief Is A Process
The process of grieving after a loss is just that, a process. It takes time to go through each of the stages outlined in the Kubler-Ross model and there should be no pressure to rush through these stages.
Individuals should take their time to experience the emotions and stages in their entirety so they can completely and wholly grieve and heal from the experienced loss. By giving oneself time and grace, grief can be processed, and one can move forward in life.
Johnson, P. (2007, February 1). Coping with death and grief. Retrieved from https://www.focusonthefamily.com/get-help/coping-with-death-and-grief/
Kessler, D. (2013, October 15). Five stages of grief by Elisabeth Kubler Ross & David Kessler. Retrieved from https://grief.com/the-five-stages-of-grief/
Kubler Ross stages of grief. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.journey-through-grief.com/kubler-ross-stages-of-grief.html
Why You MUST Take Time To Grieve
When you experience any type of loss, the normal response is a period of mourning, also known as “grief.” Grief can be caused by the loss of someone you love, a divorce or breakup, a recently diagnosed illness, or financial troubles.
Grief usually comes in five stages as described above: Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. By allowing yourself the opportunity to grieve, you’re able to address your grief as it comes and return to your normal everyday life much sooner.
At the same time, not addressing your grief has the potential to set you back emotionally and mentally in both the short and long-term. So, let’s go over what can happen if you completely avoid the grieving process.
No matter what type of loss you’ve experienced, there are triggers in your life that might remind you of this loss. These triggers might be specific people, a song on the radio, a certain location, or even a precious gift from your loved one.
When you don’t take the time to grieve, you might go out of your way to avoid these triggers. That can completely disrupt your life and you might even begin to experience anxiety due to the effort it takes to avoid your triggers and your grief.
Eventually, you’ll find yourself trapped inside your home carefully planning out every step of your day to avoid reminders of your loss.
When you lose a person that’s very important to you, the grief can be even more intense than usual. Yet, not grieving the loss of a loved one might actually impact your current and future relationships without your knowledge.
You thought your loved one would be with you forever, but now they’re gone. So, you might be afraid of starting new relationships or letting people get too close out of fear that you’ll lose them eventually as well.
In a sense, you’re always preparing for the worst when it comes to building close connections with other people.
Even if you’re not outwardly grieving your loss, both your body and mind are still experiencing the loss in some way. But rather than manifesting as sadness, it might show in the form of anger instead.
When you let your emotions get too built up, you’re much more likely to take them out on other people, especially the people you care about. Not grieving might lead you to lash out at those you love and strain your relationships permanently.
It’s as if you’re mad at the world for your loss while still denying yourself the chance to cope with your loss directly.
Just because you aren’t directly facing your grief head-on doesn’t mean that you aren’t still feeling the sadness inside. Not addressing your grief can also cause an overwhelming sadness that could eventually lead to depression.
So, instead of feeling the typical sadness of grief, avoiding your grief will eventually lead you to a more intense sadness than you wouldn’t have experienced otherwise. You might notice that you have a low mood, aren’t interested in your hobbies, or don’t care about anything anymore.
Not only will you have to deal with the depression, but you’ll also have to deal with the loss eventually to rid yourself of this depressed state.
Even though it might seem easier to pretend the loss didn’t happen and just move on with your life, it’ll eventually build up and negatively affect you in the long-term.
So, it’s best to deal with your grief immediately rather than letting anger, depression, avoidance, and fear pile up and eventually take hold of your entire life.
This post is for informational purposes only. It should not be considered therapy. This blog is only for informational and educational purposes and should not be considered therapy or any form of treatment. We are not able to respond to specific questions or comments about personal situations, appropriate diagnosis or treatment, or otherwise provide any clinical opinions. If you think you need immediate assistance, call your local doctor/psychologist or psychiatrist or the SADAG Mental Health Line on 011 234 4837. If necessary, please phone the Suicide Crisis Line on 0800 567 567 or sms 31393.