Grief is a universal emotion. Throughout one’s life, there would be a brief encounter with grief, varying from losing a job to losing a loved one. The end of a relationship, just any change that alters the life we know it.
Grief does not follow a schedule. It is a personal feeling that leads you to cry, feel empty, withdraw socially and become furious. Everyone grieves in their own way, differently. Yet there are stages of grief and the order of feelings that one experiences during it.
The stages of grief came from the Swiss-American psychiatrist named Elizabeth Kübler-Ross. In 1969, she mentioned in her book, On Death and Dying, that grief comes in 5 stages, after observing and dealing for years with mentally ill individuals.
Later then, her model for grief became known as the Kübler-Ross model. It became widely known the stages of grief that she shared, which are, in that order:
Not everyone will go through the 5 stages in that order, maybe not even experiencing them all. You can find yourself starting with the bargaining stage than in anger or denial next. You can even stay in one stage for a month and not dealing with the other stages.
Stage 1: Denial
Grief is an intense feeling, and pretending that the loss or the problem didn’t happen is a usual response to such emotion, denial. Denying gives you mentally more time to reflect and think about what happened and then begin to process it. I believe it is considered a coping mechanism, an alternative way to run away from problems. Deny. Deny. Deny. It helps numb the intensity of the situation.
Often examples of denial are saying when experiencing the death of a loved one: “no, she is still around, she will come back at any moment.”
Or saying “this can’t be, the results are mistaken” upon seeing results of a medical diagnosis.
But the denial stage won’t last for eternity, the emotions you are escaping soon will rise again to the top, you will find yourself facing emotions and profound sorrow you avoided. It is a part of the journey.
Stage 2: Anger
If denial is a coping mechanism, then anger is a masking mechanism. Anger is what hides many emotions behind it, carrying pain with it. You begin to be angry at the person who caused such feeling in the first place, whether animate or inanimate, such as the person who died or the medical results.
Your brain knows the object you aim your anger at isn’t to blame but your feelings are just too intense to realize so.
The moment anger subsides, you start thinking rationally, your mind just clears out.
An example is saying: “if she cared about herself more this wouldn’t have happened” when dealing with the death of a loved one.
Stage 3: Bargaining
In this stage, feelings of vulnerability evolve. You feel helpless in intense emotions. You will find yourself creating “if only” and “what if” statements a lot. Bargaining helps you create a line of defense to any emotion you feel, making you postpone sadness and sorrow
As saying: “if only I called her sooner, she wouldn’t have been gone”.
Stage 4: depression
where anger can be an active emotion, depression is on the opposite, a quiet stage of grief.
In other stages, you are running away from the sadness, but in this one, you are embracing it. You now deal with it in a rational manner, even sometimes isolating yourself to cope with it well.
Depression can be foggy and heavy to deal with. It can be a heavy stage of grieving.
You find yourself saying: “what am I without her?” to a gone loved one
Stage 5: Acceptance
This is where you finally come to accept everything you have dealt with. It does not mean that you have entirely moved on from your grief, rather just you accept it now. it is like looking at the full half of the cup and turning a blind eye on the empty part. You may feel very different but that is expected. The grief you went through changed the way you look at things.
This is where you say, with a sigh, “I am so lucky to have spent so many years with her, they will always be engraved in my memories” looking back at the death of a loved one.
And your soul is back, at ease.