There are specific stages of grief. They reflect common reactions people have as they try to make sense of a loss. An important part of the healing process is experiencing and accepting the feelings that come as a result of the loss. Here are the common stages of grief that people go through: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. While there are many common elements people experience when grieving, there is no “normal” set of standards for the process. Everyone grieves in their own way and for their own amount of time. However, there are still a lot of shared characteristics among people going through the grief process. Understanding these characteristics may help you navigate through your own process of grieving.
It is not uncommon to experience a state of shock after losing a loved one. During this time, people risk shutting themselves off from the world or have trouble accomplishing daily routines such as grocery shopping and housework. During this initial period, you may find yourself going through the motions of a day without truly being invested in what you are doing. A feeling of numbness or dullness can take over where you might not be feeling much at all. For friends and families, this is the opportunity to spend more time with the grieving person to help them avoid a feeling of loneliness.
Once the shock or numbness of the loss has diminished, then the realization that the loved one has passed away sets in which can lead to painful feelings of sorrow. What is usually the most intense portion of the grieving process, this realization can lead to social withdraw, depression, health problems, exhaustion, weight loss, and anger. Balancing this portion of the process with real-life responsibilities such as working or being a caregiver for others is a hard task to overcome. Although it can be difficult, it is important to work through these feelings; whether that means talking to someone else, either a friend, family member, or professional; self-meditation; or reliving old memories of your loved one, finding a way to get through this portion of the process is a vital part of the grieving process.
Many communities offer bereavement support groups or ceremonies of remembrance to give those in the community an opportunity to mourn, honor, remember, and reflect on the loss of their loved one. Whether you are a person who would like to speak about your loved one in a public setting or if you find peace in listening to others, these support groups and ceremonies are helpful ways to connect with others who understand what it means to go through the grieving process.
Do you or someone you know need help with coping with the loss of a loved one? Please visit our bereavement page for a list of support groups and ceremonies of remembrance.