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Stages of Grieving

Updated: May 13

Chapter – 1

At the age of 12, I lost my grandma, grandpa, mother, and as well as a well-wisher. I was in shock each time I lost one and I don’t know how to process the trauma initially, it took several years and attempts to understand the process of grieving and living without the dear ones. I experienced similar emotions when I lost my sister when I was 26 and went through a similar process of grieving, fighting inside out finally accepting the reality.

It is heart-wrenching to lose a near or dear one and one should go through the following stages of grief in order to cope with the situation or loss.

  1. Denial

  2. Anger

  3. Bargaining

  4. Depression and

  5. Acceptance

Passing through these five stages makes us cope with the situation or loss of a near or dear one in life. These stages are often misunderstood over a period of time. One may not go through all the stages or not pass through all these stages in a linear fashion in grief.

This framework helps us to identify what we may be feeling and learn to live with the one we lost. This framework know to help acknowledged the grief in a healthier way.

Let us know more about each stage of the grieving process:

1. Denial: Denying in the grieving process is the fact that not accepting that something happened or lost someone.

  1. When we are in denial, our response to losing someone would be a shock followed by a feeling of numbness.

  2. Denial is the first stage that helps us to survive the loss by pacing our feelings of loss. These step-wise feelings are important for our minds and act as a protective mechanism to tackle our overwhelming emotions associated with the loss of a dear one.

In the process of accepting the reality of the loss of a dear one, one would ask questions like is it real? Does this really happen? Are they really gone? The process of questioning goes on and on; how did this happen? Why did this happen? After which we question the circumstances, did it have to happen? Did it have to happen in that way? And so one point as you accept the reality of the loss. The healing begins.

2. Anger: Anger is an emotion characterized by unpleasantness toward someone or something you feel has intentionally done you wrong.

  1. In the healing process, Anger is a necessary stage. It can be on you, someone who you lost, circumstances, choices, etc., anger isn’t logical or valid.

  2. Anger is the emotion that hits us first in the range of feelings associated with a loss like sadness, hurt, panic, and loneliness.

  3. Anger is a useful emotion in emotional management during the grieving process until it consumes you for a long period of time.

It helps in managing the emotions underneath the loss of a dear one.

During the process of grieving, we should not judge the anger or let others judge it. If we ask people to move on too fast from their anger it only alienates them rather than any help. Underneath anger there is pain and it is natural to feel left out, and abandoned after the loss but we are constantly kept trained or asked not to be angry or fear anger. We usually suppress the feelings of anger rather than feeling it, anger means you are progressing towards healing.

3. Bargaining: negotiate the terms and conditions of a transaction (here, the death of loved ones)

  1. In front of the loss of a dear and near, it seems we can do anything to bring back the situation it was before the death of a loved one. We bargain in order to fix what we think we would have done differently.

  2. Bargaining can be an important and key stage in the grieving process as we still hope for an alternative for what had happened.

bargaining can act as a bridge between the grief stages and helps us to adjust the transition. It can go from past events to future and so on and so forth and inevitably comes to the same conclusion that our loved one is truly gone.

4. Depression: the mental state of low mood and aversion to activity

  1. Depression after the loss of a loved one is the natural and appropriate response.

  2. After bargaining, our emotions come to the surface and move into present feelings of emptiness at much deeper levels.

  3. Everything seems pointless at this stage and questions come to mind like why go on at all? Why go alone? Why eat? Why stop eating? And so on.

  4. We may not desire to do anything in the morning, life seems pointless and we may not get out of bed.

  5. It is important to understand that this depressive phase is not a sign of mental illness rather it s is an appropriate response to great loss in life.

When we are grieving, depression seems it will last forever, the sadness coming from the loss of dear ones is often considered a mental illness by our society which tries to fix it. When we are sad or depressed over the loss of a dear one people try to cheer us up which often backfires. Because a mourner needs to feel the loss by allowing them to experience the sorrow.

5. Acceptance: the process or fact of being received as adequate, valid, or suitable.

  1. Ain the process of grieving acceptance is often misunderstood and has the false notion that one is ok with the loss of a dear one, but it is nothing more or less than accepting the reality that our loved one is physically gone and identifying the new reality as a permanent reality.

  2. In the journey of healing, we learn who we are and who our loved ones are in life. We reintegrate the pieces that have been ripped away during the loss.

Finding acceptance in the grieving process is more good than the bad, as we learn to live without the loved one instead of denying the feelings of loss. We start to live and enjoy our lives once again and bring the feelings of betrayal of our lost one. We understand that we never replace the lost one and we move on by listing to our needs, we change, we grow and we evolve in this grieving g process. After giving enough and ampule amount of time to grieve Now, we make new connections and relationships and become more involved in their lives than before.

I personally went through these stages in my life and understand how important is the grieving process to heal the trauma of losing our dear ones. If you are in this same process comment below on which stage are you in. grieving need not be in a linear way we can be in any one of these five stages.

Very often, we get stuck in the process and find it difficult to accept all stages. The normal process of grieving doesn’t happen and we suffer from mental health illnesses such as PTSD, anxiety, depression, etc. Sometimes because of stigma and other times because of situations, we push ourselves into denial and that leads to suffering. It is always beneficial to take professional help in case you think you got stuck in any one of the stages. Feel free to get in touch with me.

Vamsy Krishna D Psychologist

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