Sunday, October 5, 2008

The 5 Stages of Grief

Psychologists have identified 5 stages of grief, bereavement or loss. But first let's talk about some of the types of loss. We can feel loss when someone close to us dies but we can also feel loss when someone we have been close to leaves us in other ways. For example a close friend might find a new job or be transferred out of the city, state or even country. We might suffer loss and grieve following a divorce or separation. We grieve when a pet dies or is lost. We grieve when we lose a job or even perhaps when we retire.

There is loss when we face a debilitating, life changing illness. One man I knew on being diagnosed with diabetes grieved the loss of food. All he said whenever anyone spoke to him was "I'm going to starve!".

Whatever the cause or form of our loss there are 5 stages we must work our way through. Our world will never be what it was for us before our loss but we can go out and make it as good as we can. Maybe we can even find a new direction to take ourselves in.

The first stage is Denial. We deny our loss. We refuse to accept it. When Mom died, my sister and I cognitively acknowledged that Mom was no longer with us yet on an unconscious level we were denying it like crazy! Take the Christmas Stocking Caper for example. I found an incredibly good buy on velour christmas stockings. They were much cheaper than I could make them so I bought one for each of us. At home, taking the stockings out of the shopping bag, I discovered I had bought ooe too many. My sister did the same thing. She bought 1 extra gift. For me the way to work through this was to accept that I was grieving. This was a normal part of the grieving process. We talked and laughed about the 'silly' things we did. And got passed that stage. Sort of. Amost. One day.

Stage two is Anger. We express our anger in many different ways. We might have a short fuse for a period of time. Sometimes we can become angry at the person or circumstance that created our loss. We might even become angry with ourselves. I keep searching for that illusive something that I might have done differently. You know ... the what if syndrome. Meditation can help release some of this anger. Take care not to let it overcome you. Don't let it turn inwards. Talk it out with someone. This too shall pass.

Stage three is Bargaining. We want to make a deal, make an offer of something, anything if only the reality will go away and our loved one, our job, whatever our loss is, will come back to us. It's only natural to wish this. Take your time and work through it.

Stage four is Depression. When the deal making doesn't work. When the reality doesn't go away depression might sneak up on us. It is a deeper form of sadness. It can manifest in fatigue or aches and pains. It can make us lethargic, unable to perform the simplest tasks.

Should you slip into this phase, please seek out qualified health care counselling. Depression is too difficult to fight on your own.

Finally we achieve Acceptance. We have cried. We have raged. We have wheedled and pleaded and connived. We have cried again but at last we have come to be at peace with our loss, with ourselves and our new reality. Our sense of loss becomes less intense over time. We can begin to move on again.

There isn't a set amount of time for any of these phases. There isn't a flow-chart mapping our progress 1-5. We have to give ourselves the time we need to work through our sense of berevement. Sometimes we move backwards or skip around the different phases. That's okay. It's all normal.

Be patient and kind to yourself. Seek help whenever you need it. You will get through it.

This article expresses my personal feelings on the grieving process and is in no way meant to take the place of seeking the counsel of qualified medical personnel. Seek qualified health care professionals reqarding this topic.

1 comment:

knitting dragonfly said...

Great article!
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