Are There Really Stages of Grief and Loss?
Grief and loss are complex and personal experiences that do not always follow a predictable path. In this article, we explore the common misunderstandings surrounding the "stages of grief" and offer guidance for navigating the grieving process in a healthy way.
Many hear about the stages of grief and loss. That is a myth.
There are many feelings that are common to people in grief. But the stages of grief as most commonly cited, by Kubler Ross do not occur with every one.
The five stages of grief, pioneered by Elizabeth Kubler Ross, in bereavement therapy… have been misunderstood and improperly applied. Kubler Ross was a Swiss psychiatrist that worked with the death and dying. Her work pioneered how the terminally ill were viewed. She encouraged treatment with compassion and understanding.
Kubler Ross’ study was done with patients dying from cancer. Her grief stages and studies were actually based on the person dying. Not the person grieving the loss of a loved one.
There is a difference in the way we experience grief. The stages of grief for a person that tis terminally ill are:
Denial – “This cannot be happening to me.”
Anger – “Why is this happening to me? ” “Who is responsible for this?”
Bargaining – ” If I live to see my son graduate from high school, I will do what you want.”
Depression- “Please leave me alone. I just feel too sad and tired to do anything.”
Acceptance – ” I am prepared for what is coming, let’s discuss funeral arrangements”
The problem with the grieving process is it does not go in a neat and steady line. You can go through so many feelings (stages) in a few moments. Your grief journey is a roller coaster ride in life.
There are however universal feelings that you will experience in the grief process.
Shock, numbness or disbelief. This is the stage when you feel as if life is surreal. This is a time when you cannot remember even simple things, or make simple decisions. This stage will last for a few days to a few weeks.
Then you move into …
Pain and suffering begin to replace shock. This comes at a time, when everyone has gone back to his or her lives. Overwhelming and excruciating pain sets in. You may feel sadness, loss, agitated, restless, guilt and anxiety. Some may feel anger, but anger is not a universal feeling in the grief process.
You may have physical symptoms… such as insomnia, loss of appetite or over eating, chest pain and overwhelming fatigue.
In the later stage of the pain and suffering cycle, you may feel that you are alone, no one understands you. This is the time when you may have others appear inconsiderate or insensitive… and tell you “get over it”, “get on with your life”.
You will find yourself going from moments of calm… followed by periods of overwhelming sadness, crying and intense grief.
You are not going crazy, this is normal in the grieving process. This could occur when you least expect. For some, this will occur on and off for years.
When you feel this way, just allow your feelings to be. Allow them to flow.
Do not ignore them.
Surrendering to your grief will lead you to a healthy resolution.
Grief is unpredictable and intermittent. Be gentle with yourself.
Recovery is a place when you start to feel improvement in your emotions. It does not mean that there is an end to your pain.
The pain you have felt will always be with you, just in the background.
Recovery is learning to live life.. Reconnecting to others and experience moments of happiness and joy. For some this may take a year. For others, this takes much longer.
Stages of grief give the sense that time heals all wounds. Time, does not heal emotional wounds. But, you can learn strategies to restore balance and find the courage to create a new future.
“They say time heals all wounds, but that presumes the source of the grief is finite”
― Cassandra Clare, Clockwork Prince