Death is one of the few things in life that are guaranteed. At some point in time, every single one of us will lose a person or an animal who we love and care for so much. And with that loss, comes immense overwhelming feelings of sadness that are known as grief. Grief presents itself differently from person to person. Dealing with grief is a very individual experience dependent on many factors, including your personality, your coping skills, past life experiences, your faith, and how significant the loss was in your life (HelpGuide, 2022). Due to the individuality of grief, there is no set timeframe in which someone should be “healed” from it. I think it is fitting to put the word healed in quotation marks because, for many of us, the grief that comes from a loss of a loved one can last our whole lives.
Psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross founded the concept of the “five stages of grief” in 1969 (HelpGuide, 2022). The stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. The first stage, denial, is characterized by feelings of disbelief and shock. Some common thoughts an individual can experience at this time are, “How could this happen to me?” and “It can’t be true” (Mind, 2019). Anger is the second stage, which includes blaming yourself or others for the loss and general hostile feelings and behaviors. “Why me?” or “Why them?” and “This isn’t fair” are some typical anger responses people have in this stage (Mind, 2019). Next comes the bargaining stage which is filled with guilt. Here, someone may have thoughts along the lines of, “Make this not happen, and in return, I will _____” (HelpGuide, 2022). The next stage, which is arguably the most commonly associated with grief, is depression. When one is in the depression stage, they experience feelings of hopelessness, intense sadness, and the sense that they are lost in life. “I’m too sad to do anything” is most likely a recurring thought that someone in this stage may face (HelpGuide, 2022). Finally, the last stage of grief, there is acceptance. Acceptance is about coming to terms with what happened: “Acceptance does not mean that somebody likes the situation or that it is right or fair, but rather it involves acknowledging the implications of the loss and the new circumstances, and being prepared to move forward in a new direction” (Mind, 2019).
It is important to note that not everyone experiences grief in these exact stages. Some people may go through the stages in a different order, skip some stages, or just not experience them at all. Even Kübler-Ross, who introduced this concept, acknowledges that healing from grief is not linear and that these stages are not one-size-fits-all. In her last book, about the stages of grief, she declares, “They were never meant to help tuck messy emotions into neat packages. They are responses to loss that many people have, but there is not a typical response to loss, as there is no typical loss. Our grieving is as individual as our lives” (HelpGuide, 2022).
While grief is typically associated with the significant loss of a loved one, that is not the only instance from which grief can stem. A loss of any kind can provoke grief in someone. These losses include a divorce or a breakup, loss of a job, a miscarriage, diagnosis of an illness for you or a loved one, retirement, loss of a friendship, loss of safety after a trauma, changing careers, graduating, or even moving to a new place (HelpGuide, 2022). Regardless of the situation you are grieving from, it is immensely important to make sure you are taking care of yourself emotionally and physically during this tough time.
HelpGuide. (2022, October 13). Coping with Grief and Loss. Retrieved October 24, 2022, from https://www.helpguide.org/articles/grief/coping-with-grief-and-loss.htm
Gautam, P. (n.d.). Unsplash. Retrieved from https://unsplash.com/@pgauti.
Mind. (2019, July). Bereavement. Retrieved October 24, 2022, from https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/guides-to-support-and-services/bereavement/experiences-of-grief/