Grieving & The 5 Stages

Originally posted on April 21, 2015 and updated today, April 16, 2019.

The Process:

Sad, down, low energy, not my chipper self, these all describe several inner feelings I have experienced lately. I have asked myself questions like,

What are these sad feelings about?

What is going on for me that I feel so off lately?

I know my feelings are like a signal that something deeper is going on, but what was it?

Why?

After a few weeks of pondering, I came to this conclusion: GRIEF.

So what was I grieving over after all? Well, I have experienced some loss recently. A few weeks ago, I lost my paternal grandmother to pneumonia then days later a dear friend of mine had a miscarriage which triggered my own miscarriage feelings all over again. Then I noticed that several of my clients were also experiencing the loss of a friend or spouse way too soon. So I said, “It has got to be that I am grieving over all these losses.”

And grief can feel SO HEAVY! Ughhhhh!

Grieving is a process not a one-time event. The process involves becoming aware of the loss, labeling it and then giving yourself permission to experience all the different emotions involved around it such as deep sadness, anger, uncertainty, fear, guilt, etc. It can also affect you physically (i.e. difficulty sleeping, nausea, weight changes). Grief can sometimes feel overwhelming and confusing especially if you are not aware that it may be grief. It can happen over the loss of a loved one, the loss of a relationship, the loss of a dream or expectation, and major life transitions such as moving, getting married, or having children. Losing your pet counts too, especially when you consider them like a child to you.

It can help to seek out support persons or groups, use your coping skills, and talk with a professional counselor about your grief.

If grief is affecting your everyday life to where you no longer can keep up with your daily responsibilities, then it may be time for you to get some professional help.

I really connect well (and hope you can too) with Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s explanation of the stages we go through while grieving. What is important to note is that these five stages do not necessarily happen in linear, one right after the other, order. You can bounce back and forth many times throughout the process. You may also experience more than one stage at a time. Here is how Kubler-Ross organized the grief stages:

5 Stages of Grief:

1. In her first step of shock/denial, it is as if the loss feels so unreal that it is hard to believe that it really happened. You might say something like, “No, this can’t be! This doesn’t make any sense! This could not have happened!” or “I can’t believe this.”

2. In her second stage of anger, you may have intense angry feelings and ask yourself, “Why is this happening?! Who did this?” You may blame yourself, the person you lost, or someone else. You may feel angry at the person you lost or angry at yourself for not doing something differently.

3. The next stage is bargaining. In this stage, you say something like, “If only I could have ________ back, then I would do ____________ differently.” or “I will do anything to have __________ back.”

4. In her fourth stage of depression, you may feel an overwhelming sense of sadness, have low energy, and low motivation to move forward (much like I was noticing in myself). You may even have moments of intense despair when you wish you were dead just like your loved one.

5. Finally, her last stage centers around acceptance in that we come to a place of peace with what has happened. We accept the reality of the loss or transition. It can take several months and possibly years to get to that place of peace and understanding, but don’t give up hope. Healing and acceptance can and does happen.

Remember, these 5 stages do not necessarily happen one right after the other. Typically, you may experience several stages at the same time or bounce between them in no particular order. These stages are the normal grief process. You are not alone!

Who or what are you grieving today? Give yourself lots of permission to have your feelings.

Until the next story…Bethie