Grief is an emotion that we have which is very complex and often misunderstood. Unfortunately, grief is something that we all will experience in our lives at one time or another. We will all experience loss in our lives. The stages of grief are the same whether it be through the death of a loved one, divorce, or some other loss. There are five stages of grief. It is said that if we get stuck in one of the stages, the process of grieving is not complete, and cannot be complete. This means that a person will not complete the entire healing process when there is a loss in their life.
A person must go through all five stages of grief to be well again, and to fully heal. Not everyone goes through the stages at the same time. It is different for each person. You cannot force a person through the stages, and they have to experience each stage at their own pace. Someone may go one step forward then take two steps backward, but this is all part of the process. This process is individual to each person. But, it is stressed that all five stages must be completed for healing to occur. The first stage of grief is denial. It is very natural for someone to feel like this is not really happening to them.
How many times have we said or heard someone else say “this can’t be happening to me”. Many people are in a state of shock during this stage. For example, when we here that a loved one is now dead, we just cannot believe that this is true. We just do not want to hear it or believe it. It is known that some people will still be setting the table at dinner time for the person, or acting as if they are still living there. People are seen looking for the loved one that passed away, or people may look for a former spouse in familiar places where they would often be together.
During denial there is often no crying or any type of emotion. People are not accepting or even acknowledging the loss. The second stage of grief is anger. It is very natural to have feelings of anger after a loss. How many times have we said or heard someone say “why me? ”. People feel that they did not deserve what has happened to them, and that the circumstances are completely unfair. When someone has died there may be many feelings of anger towards the person that died. People will actually get very angry at the deceased, and they will blame them for what has happened.
People may also get angry at God, as well as other people that may have been at the location where someone died. They feel that it is someone else’s fault, and may cast blame and anger towards another person. When people get divorced there are often many feelings of wanting to fight back or get even with their spouse. Many times people blame their spouse for leaving them. The third stage of grief is bargaining. Bargaining often takes place before the loss. Attempting to make deals with the spouse who is leaving, or attempting to make deals with God to stop or change the loss.
People may start begging, wishing, and praying for them to come back. This is very common when someone is terminally ill. They will beg God to stop the illness, and they will want to make some sort of deal with God. People will even do this sort of thing after someone is deceased. They still want to make a deal with God to somehow bring their loved one back. People that are getting a divorce will try to bargain with their spouse. They will beg them not to leave them, and they tell them that they will change. Sometimes a spouse will say that they will do anything if the other person does not leave.
All of these methods are part of the bargaining stage that we must go through when mourning a loss, or when someone is threatening to leave. The fourth stage of grief is depression. This is the stage that scares me the most. When people go through this stage I worry about them very much, and some people have the potential to hurt themselves. People will have overwhelming feelings of hopelessness, frustration, bitterness, and self pity. Mourning the loss of a person is devastating. We will also mourn as we think of the hopes, dreams, and plans for the future that are no longer there.
These plans are now gone after a loss. We feel an incredible lack of control, and we may even feel numb. Perhaps feelings of suicide may overcome an individual. I obviously feel that family and friends need to be with the person that has experienced a loss, but in this stage more than any of the other stages family and friends must be close. There have been many cases where someone has experienced a loss, and then that person ends up taking their own life. This is the most tragic thing that I can think of.
Now we have two horrible losses to deal with, and I sure don’t think that this helps anyone in any way. Depression is normal throughout a loss, but not when it is taken to the level of suicide. I think that if enough family and friends are always available to help the person most dealing with the loss then this sort of thing can be avoided. The fifth and final stage of grief is acceptance. It must be noted that there is a difference between resignation and acceptance. A person must accept the loss, not just try to bear it quietly. There must be realization that the person is gone when they die.
People must realize that it is not their fault, and that their loved one did not leave them on purpose. It is said that even in cases of suicide often the deceased person was not in their right frame of mind. Acceptance must also occur when going through a divorce. There must be realization that it takes two to make or break a marriage. It is never just one person’s fault when a divorce occurs, and acceptance is a necessary part of getting through a divorce. In any type of loss we must try to find the good that can come out of the pain of the loss. We must try to find comfort and healing through the loss.
When we begin to accept the loss our goals turn toward personal growth, and helping others who experience that same kind of loss. We also will start thinking of all of the fond memories of the person that we lost. We will begin to smile and laugh when think of that person instead of crying and living in constant sorrow. I cannot believe how ironic it is that I am writing this essay on the five stages of grief. On Wednesday, May 4th, 2011 my twenty one year old step son Daniel died. My wife and I found Daniel in our spare bedroom passed away in the bed on that morning.
I am finishing this essay in Wisconsin right now. We are burying him today. I have seen firsthand the five steps of grief in this past week. My wife and some others have not yet completed the five steps. I have noticed that some people will stay in a particular step longer than another step. Daniel’s grandmother still seems to be in the angry stage. My wife on the other hand is in the depression stage. I foresee her remaining in this step for quite a while. I must say that I do agree with the old saying that “time can heal all wounds”.
We will never get over the loss of a loved one, but we do learn how to get on with our lives. We must go on for their sakes, and that is how they would want it. I have accepted Daniel’s loss, and I know that I will see him again in heaven. I strongly believe in this fact, and that is what helps me get through this terrible time. It is such a sad fact that death is certain for all of us, and it is so important that we deal with it by going through the five steps of grief. It is very normal to go through all five steps of grief, and we must go through all of them.
We must get help from our loved ones. We will survive, and we will learn to move forward with our lives. We will heal, even if we cannot believe that now, we just know that this is true. To feel pain after a loss is normal. It proves that we are alive and loving human beings. But we can’t stop living. We have to become stronger, and we must not shut off our feelings for the hope of one day being healed, and finding love and/or happiness again. Helping others through something we have experienced is a wonderful way to facilitate our healing and bring good out of something tragic.