stages of grief

Some of the things that causes us to grieve happen more suddenly than expected, making it difficult to know how to handle our emotions in the aftermath of such event. In cases where our loved ones are involved, even if they had been sick for a long time prior to their death, losing them at any moment may still come as a sudden shock. The reason being that none of us truly want to lose anyone we love so much. I don’t think we really prepare to not having our loved ones around. It may sound a bit sentimental. I think it’s just part of our human nature.

Last week, I began my first post on the grief series. Find it here

There are five stages of grief everyone experiences during their mourning period. The duration of each phase may be totally dependent on the one who’s grieving, but we all, in many ways, go through these stages when some bad things happen to us.

When people suddenly experience the loss of a loved one, the first thing they face is a denial of the event. This happens because of the initial shock. Denial is actually pretending like what had happened is not true. It’s one of the ways the ego manages the anxiety or discomfort caused by the pain.

After denial, anger may emerge, as you suddenly realize that the event have actually happened. You are then faced with so much pain that may leave you helpless. Most people turn these feelings into anger. You may become angry at God, because you feel He should have done something to prevent your loss. Some would become bitter, thinking life as unfair to them; thus becoming angry at life. Some others would turn this anger towards other people, and use blaming methods at trying to make these other persons the cause of their issues.

The key here is to realize that no one is to blame for what may, and may not have happened. Your frustrations are totally understandable, because of how much pain you feel. But turning it out on others isn’t the solution.

When the anger settles, a form of bargaining occurs. This is the stage when you are focused on what you could have done to prevent the situation. This is where some would make oaths with God. Be careful though! You don’t want to make promises you can’t keep after your grieving is totally over and you are now starting to enjoy life, again.

As you count your losses, and how much you will miss this person, sadness may begin to overwhelm you. At this stage, depression sets in. You may refuse eating, unable to sleep; while all you do is cry endlessly. One of the things that is common here is feelings of regret. The feelings at this stage is not unusual, and it is an offshoot of the bargaining stage, where you wished you, or some super powers, could have done something to prevent the loss.

The final stage of grief is acceptance. At this point, reality totally dawns on the mourner. And you realize that this loss may be irreversible, after all. At this point, you may find yourself learning ways to cope with the situation, so you can move on.

Acceptance is important because it sets the stage for healing. At the point of acceptance, we have finally come to ourselves to acknowledge the event and move on with life. Not many people get to this acceptance stage. Your goal should be to get here; the point where you accept the fact that you did experience a loss but would love to move on in the best way possible. Healing happens here.

But if you do not allow these phases end when they should, you may grieve far longer than you actually should, sometimes at the cost of your own health. Still, no one can determine how long your grief should last. The key thing is being open to let go when the time is ripe.

There’s no need trying to feel guilty about having not “grieved enough.” It is thoughts as these, that would make some people deliberately continue with grieving even when they sense a leading to let go. They fear being accused of not actually ‘loving’ the dead enough, if, to them, the grieving period seem too “short.”

During the time of grieving, in order to lessen the effects of the pain, some people try using some temporary pain relieving substances. Any attempt at numbing the painful feelings must be completely avoided. Such substances as alcohol, porn, gambling, and drugs may provide some apparent pleasure, and help you forget the trouble temporarily. But they are not what you want to use to overcome your sorrow, trust me!

They may seem a good way of escape. But only a deceptive one, that is. In fact, the momentarily euphoria that comes with the use of such substances can serve as a means of freedom from the usually uncomfortable pains that comes with a loss. Still, don’t go that route. It can be very tempting, because you sense yourself not able to cope with the magnitude of the gush of painful emotions during this time.

If you choose the shortcut to relief, you may be dangerously elongating your time of grieving. Because when the substances wear off, of which they will, you will always have to come to terms with the pains, again. And if you continue at numbing with more of these substances, over time, you may develop an addiction to these temporary reliefs, thus compounding the initial problem.

One of the best things to do then is accepting that you’re sad, first of all. This is really important, but may be quite difficult to do. You see, part of being strong, is in being sad when it is necessarily. I understand how some people consider sadness a bad thing. I do not subscribe to such doctrine. Because it is such beliefs that makes pretense out of humans. When you should actually be expressing the pains, frustrations, and sadness you feel about a situation, you’re told to not ‘cry!’ Seriously? Our human emotions are okay, and necessary for our proper mental health stability. Problem arises when we try at suppressing, or denying that we have these feelings.

When you are able to express yourself during your time of grief, without minding how, or what ways in particular you should go about it, you set yourself free. Which can be very relieving, and soul healing too. Otherwise, you could make yourself a prisoner of your own emotions; something that may become a time bomb much later.

So, accept that you are sad the moment you suffer a loss, unless you truly aren’t. Because if you deny these emotions, you create more space for covering them up, and allowing them to be stored up within. These suppressed emotions are what affects your relationships, work, and other aspects of your life much later. Best bet is always to cry, if that’s how you feel, and totally express your pains, and sadness in a way that lets them out without harming you or another.

The unfortunate thing about pretending to be strong during grief is the eventual breakdown that may occur much later, when you should probably have been done with it.

There is no particular rule to grieving, or a set way for anyone. Grief, in my opinion, can only be best expressed by the one experiencing the pains; not how we assume it must be done. I really cannot tell how you feel, even if I had experienced a similar circumstance; it’s never really the same with all of us.

Also, it is important that you find a way to return to your normal lifestyle, as soon as you realize you can cope doing so. Doing this can help you completely get up and face life’s challenges since you know that you’d always have to move on with life at some point, regardless of the situation.

However, know when it is time to do so. Knowing when and how to make the next moves during this critical time is key to not damaging your own right to live because of the dead.

If you feel the need to go for counselling, please do. A counsellor may help you think in more empowering ways about the situation through their questioning and talk therapy.

Whatever you decide to do during your moments of grief, ensure that they are things that would help you get over the painful loss; not to numb it, momentarily.

If you allow denial to overwhelm you, and then use substances to numb your feelings at the point of acceptance, or depression, what you have done is to postpone the grieving into the future, when you are supposed to be getting used to your normal routine.

There’s one thing that is true about grief: either do it now, or do it later. Whatever, you will still grieve your lost loves.

Please remember this: grief, like most things about our human emotions, is within our control. We determine when it’s enough, or not.


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To your successfully evolving life.

Joy Iseki

|The Counsellor|

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