One of the most challenging experiences in life is losing a loved one. Sometimes it seems as though grieving would be a bit easier if it followed a linear path where each stage could be stacked away neatly into boxes. However, the five stages of grief don’t follow a specific order, and some of us might not experience all five of them. Immense feelings can emerge throughout the grieving process, sometimes popping up unexpectedly.
There is no “one size fits all” solution, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
Stages of Grief
I’ve always known there to be five stages of grief. Some will say that there are 7 or 12. I’m going to stick to this set of five.
Denial & Isolation: It is natural to reject the idea that we’ve lost someone we love. It’s a difficult thing to process and accept. Sometimes with denial comes isolation because we don’t want to deal with reminders of the sad truth.
Anger: Death feels unfair. The ones we love are seemingly ripped away from us, and it’s easy to be angry about it. Why them? Why now?
Bargaining: Bargaining seems to help us cope because it allows us to have a sense of control in the face of helplessness. When a loved one is close to death, many religious people will try and bargain with the great spirit they follow. They will try and negotiate with their God that if only their loved one can make it, they’ll stop or start doing XYZ.
Depression: Here comes the heavy weight of sadness. The hazy, dark gray clouds tower over us. In the wake of the loss of a loved one, it is understandable to feel depressed and down in the dumps.
Acceptance: Eventually, we come to terms with the loss. We have no choice but to accept that someone we love is no longer with us. Sometimes this makes room for closure, while other times, it complicates things.
Remember, we don’t all experience grief the same way or in the order of the steps listed. Below you’ll find things to remember to help you pull through. Whether you’ve lost a pet or a person, it’s challenging to face each day, but the sun will always rise. Let that be an example! Through the darkness, a light will shine, and we will get through it.
Things Won’t Feel Like This Forever
I am no stranger to loss. I remember being a little girl and learning about death through experience. I was so afraid I would feel a terrible sadness for the rest of my life. Grief is similar to waves cresting and then slimming into the shore. To overcome this, we should ride the wave. To do this, we have to understand that it’s coming up, find support, take care of ourselves, and allow it to flow.
“This too shall pass.” As time goes on, we will feel less angry, sad, and depressed. I’m not saying we will never be sad about it at some point because we will, and it’s perfectly normal.
Remember, Even When You Feel Like You Can’t, You Can Handle It
It’s human nature to avoid painful experiences. Losing someone important to us can leave us feeling like we can’t cope with the pain. However, we learn about our capacity to handle these things by moving through them and processing them along the way. Trying to avoid our feelings and emotions can lead to them coming on that much stronger when something triggers them.
It’s essential to make space so that we can experience these difficult emotions. Doing so allows us to practice resiliency and grow our internal resources. Loss never gets any easier; however, the way we cope with it can. You can do this! It might not be easy, but it’s possible.
Be Gentle, With Others & Yourself
Grief is an exhausting experience. It’s crucial that we take care of our bodies during these times of intense stress. Make time for naps, eat food that nourishes the body and comforts the soul, and stay hydrated. Be gentle with your feelings and those around you. It’s ok to cry and break down. Don’t beat yourself up for feeling what is only natural. Make time and space to handle and process your emotions.
Think In Circles or Cycles, Not Lines
It’s natural to reach a point where we’re feeling good, followed by waves of feeling bad again. Don’t worry; it’s not a sign of relapsing or getting worse. It’s merely the way grief works, and believe it or not; it’s a sign of moving forward. Grief is a series of circles or loops; you can circle back to where you were some time ago, but that circle continues in a forward motion. It’s not all up with you; you’re simply going through the natural cycles.
These Feelings Are Normal
Grieving is a challenging experience. Something that can make it more difficult is when someone around you tries to tell you what you should or shouldn’t do, what to feel, and what not to feel. Let me tell you; it’s no one else’s place to tell you how or when. It’s one thing to express concern, but you’ll work through your grieving process in a manner meant for you.
An essential part of healing and coping is allowing yourself to feel whatever you feel: anger, sadness, bitterness, guilt, or even relief. Your emotions are valid. One thing that can be an issue is when we impose our feelings and act out towards others. Self-control is also essential because it can be easy to lash out.
You’re Not Alone
Loss is something we all deal with at some time or another. Even if you’re the only person in your circle coping with grief at the time, there’s a strong possibility someone has gone through it before. It can be easy to feel alone while we grieve as no one person feels precisely the same at the same time. Sometimes we unconsciously push others away while we deal with loss, which intensifies the feeling of being alone. Please remember, you’re not alone!
Loss is hard, and that might be an understatement. The feelings and emotions that present themselves can be a struggle, but there are ways to cope. Suppose you don’t have anyone close to you during these times of hardship. In that case, reach out to a professional for help or even find a group to communicate with. Ride the wave and allow your emotions to flow; remember, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel and a rainbow after the rain.