Grief is the constellation of internal thoughts and feelings in response to loss. As well as experiences of losing a loved one, there are various phases that we go through in life which require grieving. For example, when we move from childhood to adulthood, or during the midlife transition. The way we learned to deal with loss as children often impacts the way we deal with it as adults.
The ‘Five Stages of Grief Model’ suggests that when a person is faced with loss he or she will experience certain emotional stages as a response. These include denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. These steps don’t necessarily occur in order and a person can move back and forth into and from different stages (Kubler-Ross 1969).
1. Denial and isolation: during this first stage one is often in a state of shock and has difficulty understanding and really believing what has happened. It often brings a person into isolation and withdrawal into loneliness, away from his or her usual social circle.
2. Anger: the reality of what is happening now begins to re-emerge and there may be a strong sense of anger for the loss that is being experienced. The anger may be directed to oneself or to others.
3. Bargaining: during this phase the “if only” statements surface as a normal reaction to feelings of helplessness. We ask ourselves, “What if I had done this… Could things have been different?” We often make deals with God at this stage to ask for the inevitable to be avoided (e.g. If I make a good gesture, will you stop this from happening?).
4. Depression: the attention is now brought back to the present and the experience of grief is felt on a deeper level. It is often accompanied by a feeling of numbness, profound sadness, and sense of wandering in a desolated land. This stage often feels like it may last forever.
5. Acceptance: can be reached once we have gone through the mourning process. There is no right time or way to reach acceptance and every one of us will go through their own journey. It is at this stage that we become able to make meaning of what has happened (Garcia and Pomeroy 2008, p.40-44).
As underlined in 'Healing through the Dark Emotions' (Greenspan 2004, p.88):“emotional pain has purpose for the soul.” As challenging as this may be, if we give attention to these emotions and allow ourselves to go through the grieving process, we can find our path to healing. Support is essential in this.