You may have heard of the so-called “five stages of grief,” but until you’ve experience significant loss, you may not have given them much thought. This widely accepted theory for how people deal with grief was originally developed in 1969 by Swiss psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. Since that time, this grieving model has helped countless people understand the emotions they’re experiencing following the loss of a loved one and recognize that what they’re feeling is normal. Let’s take a look at these five defined stages below.
Stage 1 – Denial
Many people describe experiencing a feeling of numbness when a loved one passes away. It can be difficult to grasp and accept the fact that this individual is gone and will no longer be a part of your life. This is especially the case if the death was sudden and unexpected. During this stage, you may feel the urge to withdraw and isolate yourself from others.
Stage 2 – Anger
It’s also very common for those left behind to experience feelings of anger, whether toward the person who has died, the circumstances surrounding the death, or others involved, like family members or medical professionals. Experts recommend that allowing yourself to feel these normal emotions is an important part of working through them and eventually letting them go.
Stage 3 – Bargaining
Wanting things to return back to the way they were before the death of a loved one is completely normal and understandable. People experiencing grief often struggle with “what ifs” and “if onlys.” What if I had stopped him from getting behind the wheel? If only she’d visited the doctor sooner. You may also find yourself attempting to make a deal with a higher power to bring your loved one back. Again, these feelings are normal in the aftermath of a loved one’s death.
Stage 4 – Depression
Feelings of sadness, loneliness and emptiness are all common when grieving the loss of a loved one. You may find it difficult to go about your normal day to day activities. While these feelings are a very natural reaction to loss, they should be temporary. If you start to become concerned about depression or you find yourself having unhealthy thoughts about harming yourself, seek the help of a professional.
Stage 5 – Acceptance
As time passes, things will inevitably start to feel normal once again. That’s not to say that you’ll no longer miss the person or pet you lost, but at some point, you will naturally begin to heal and feel ready to move on.
It’s important to note that these stages are only meant to serve as a guideline. Because grief is deeply personal, not everyone will experience all of these stages and even if they do, they may not experience them in any specific order. There is also no definitive timeline for grief. A process that may take one person a few weeks to work through may take months or even years for someone else.
If you’re struggling with any or all of these five stages of grief, taking action can be incredibly cathartic. For instance, you may find that planting a tree, creating a memorial or commissioning a piece of remembrance art may help you work through the emotions you’re experiencing and move toward a place of acceptance and healing.
Regardless of how you choose to deal with your emotions, be forgiving and patient with yourself. At the end of the day, it’s what your loved one would have wanted.