Coming to terms with the loss of the loved one is easier said than done. As one goes through grief, there are stages that can be identified with each part of the process. Understanding the stages of grief can be really helpful in the grief process. It can be really difficult to have no guide through this type of loss, especially at a time when you already feel lost. Know that although there are stages of grief, not everyone goes through them the same. Along with that, know that these stages don’t go in the same order for every single person, so never feel like there is something wrong if you don’t struggle the same way that others do. Every person is different.
The original five stages of grief were devised by Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross many decades ago. These stages include denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. However, Body Positive Works believes in this sixth stage of grief, added by David Kessler, a world-renowned expert on grief and loss. The sixth stage is finding meaning, which is what helps us to remember with “more love than pain” (Kessler). At Body Positive Works, we walk beside you as you step along each stepping stone of the grief process.
With this being said, here are the stages of grief:
Feeling numb/ Not feeling is common in the early days after the loss of a loved one. Many people begin by carrying on with their lives as if nothing happened and the loved one is still alive. Although one may know in their mind that someone has passed, wrapping your head around that loved one never coming back can be extremely difficult, which is why many chose not to believe it at all. With denial comes a feeling of blankness, and oftentimes many feel the presence of the person who passed, whether they hear their voice, or even see them, whether its in waking life or in a dream.
After experiencing a loss, anger is a completely natural emotion. Death can seem cruel, unfair, like someone has stolen something from you. These feelings of anger are especially evident when you feel someone has passed away before their time or you had plans for the future together. Many people struggle with the question “why did this happen to me?” or “why did it happen to them”. Anger can be irrational and difficult to keep under control in such a challenging time. It’s also common to feel angry towards the person who has died, or angry at ourselves for things we did or didn’t do before their death.
When we are struggling with something as difficult as grief, it’s sometimes hard to accept that there’s nothing we can do to change things. Bargaining is when we start to make deals with ourselves, or even with a higher being like God (if you’re religious). We want to believe that if we act in particular ways we will feel better. Another common part of the bargaining stage is going over and over things that happened in the past, whether it was something you wanted to change, do differently, or something someone else could’ve done. During this stage, we wish we could go back and change things in the hope that things could’ve turned out differently.
When we think about grief, the depression stage is what is most commonly thought of. Sadness and longing is such a difficult and common stage that everyone goes through, whether you can’t go back and do something differently, miss the person, or regret things from the past. This pain can be very intense and come in waves over many months or years. Life can feel like it no longer holds any meaning which can be very difficult. Being able to speak to someone about your struggles can be extremely helpful, especially during this stage of grief.
Although life without that loss of the loved one will never be the same, it is important to accept that change in life and allow the pain to ease. As time goes on, most people do find that this pain eases, and although extremely difficult, accept what happened and move forward. While one can still keep a close place for that loved one in their heart and they may never “get over” it, it is extremely important to learn how to live without that person while holding memories of them close.
This stage can be particularly challenging for people to experience, but not impossible. What meaning can come from tragedy or loss? What good can come out of the current situation? Can loss encourage people to reach out to each other and deepen their relationships? Can it re-awaken their spirituality?