At an early age, I learned the stages of grief. Later, I applied these stages firsthand. Through death, divorce, and trauma, I learned to survive.
Grief comes in many forms. Whether you lose a loved one to disease or you suffer the pains of divorce, grief hurts with the same intensity. In fact, stages of grief closely mirror each other from one heartache to the next. That’s why it’s so easy to apply these stages and understand how to get through the steps.
Where do we start?
When learning how to heal from hurt, it’s sometimes hard to understand where to begin. You may want to scream or cry, and this is okay. In fact, these things will probably happen during one or more of the stages of grief.
According to what I learned in Sociology class in college, there are 7 stages of grief. I will share those with you now.
Although some stages of grief do not include this one, I think it’s important to address this step. At the onset of the bad news, most people experience shock or disbelief of what’s happening to them or a loved one. During this time, a feeling of numbness will take over the body and mind.
Unfortunately, shock doesn’t give way to positive feelings. After the initial disbelief starts to fade, the one who has received the bad news will start to question the validity of what has happened. That’s when this occurs:
The second of the stages of grief is denial. To the hurting, what has happened cannot possibly be true, especially if it was sudden. In the case of a car accident or murder, death is without any warning and sometimes seems like a nightmare. Denial steps in and attempts to convince the loved ones that these things aren’t real. Denial can be damaging if the sufferer cannot move on to the next stage.
In the case of relationship dissolution, denial comes when one partner was unaware of the impending separation, or simply heard the warnings but never thought it would really happen. Many people are devastated by divorce and immediately deny the looming responsibilities of court proceedings and other changes during the break-up process. We must take care not to get stuck in this stage of denial.
The feelings of anger are primal and simple. If trauma has occurred, denial will lead quickly into anger. You may ask yourself, “Why did this happen to me?”, or “I cannot tolerate this type of pain. It’s just not fair.” These are common questions which arise during the anger stage.
If there was a death, then you might even feel angry because you could not save the one you loved. Maybe you failed to understand the warning signs of their death. Maybe you wish you had done things differently on the day they passed away.
Anger can come in many forms and for many reasons where grief is involved, but just like denial, you should find a way to heal from your angry emotions.
Another stage which may or may not occur is the feeling of guilt stage. If someone you love has been taken from you, then feelings of fault could surface. Just like with anger, you may blame yourself for what has happened. This blame will eat at you for quite some time before you learn things sometimes just happen the way they do because of fate.
None-the-less, guilt will remain until you decide to free yourself from the responsibilities of what happened. You may find yourself writing the details of the event so you can get a fresh perspective of the ordeal. This can sometimes help lift the feelings of guilt and help you move on.
Bargaining is a strange stage of grief. It’s as if you can change your fate by promising things in return. You pray or you speak to the universe, as a whole, to make the pain go away, in exchange for doing something better, or making wiser decisions.
For instance, if divorce is in your near future, you may start to bargain for another chance to be a better spouse, even if you aren’t solely to blame for the break-up. If someone you love is dying, you may bargain for a greater power to heal them in exchange for your promise to be a more devote spiritual follower. You can bargain in most any way you choose in a desperate plea to stop the pain.
No one stomachs this stage really well, but it must come and pass through us. This type of depression is not to be confused with clinical depression. This immense sadness is primarily episodic, stemming from whatever trauma or loss you may have experienced. Among the stages of grief, the depression stage is sometimes the hardest to start.
Although you might think you’re depressed during denial or anger, the emotions haven’t quite deepened enough to make you experience true depression. When the real stage of depression hits, you will no longer be bargaining, denying anything and your anger will have faded. What has happened has finally taken its toll on your emotions.
People experience acceptance in different ways. In the case of death, acceptance could simply mean having the ability to function normally again, including the return to normal eating habits. With breakups, this could mean being ready to meet someone new.
Accepting the changes of grief means that you are successfully starting the real healing process. The stages of grief are grueling and if you’ve reached acceptance, then you’ve finally reached the end of the dark tunnel. You will start to see beauty again, love, and even a bit of happiness. What happened is done, and the future is still coming.
Stages of grief are not easy
Never assume that moving through these stages of grief is easy. It isn’t. Most all of you have endured loss and now recognize these stages that I talk about. Although each person endures these steps in different ways and may even go through a few extra steps, they basically all lead to healing.
As you move through these stages, don’t give up. I know that each stage will bring obstacles that will make you want to stop trying, but as you conquer new levels, you will see more and more of your future potential.
Remember, don’t try to go through these on your own. Get support from friends and loved ones and take the sting off the stages of grief. Another thing to always keep in mind: You are not alone in your sorrow.