When people think of the term ‘grief,’ they most often picture the feelings you experience after losing a loved one or a pet. While this is accurate, any massive upheaval can be a trigger, from losing a job to the end of a relationship. Everyone navigates these feelings differently, but experts have quantified them into stages to help in coping with grief and loss.
Where Do These Stages Come From?
The concept of stages of grief isn’t a new one. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross originally defined them in 1969, which are likely the ones you’re familiar with. Over the years, as our understanding of grief has expanded, experts have added to this list.
What to Expect During the 7 Stages of Grief
Before we begin, it is important to note that grief is not the same for everyone. You may travel through these steps in a straight line, or you may feel like Sisyphus, pushing a boulder up an endless hill, destined to roll back down to the bottom again and again. Regardless of how you navigate your feelings, these seven stages of grief may give you the tools to help you cope.
This stage occurs immediately after the event that causes grief. Individuals may deny it has happened as a defense mechanism. It can take time to absorb the information because it is a shock to both mind and body.
Once the information sinks in and the shock begins to fade, you will often find it replaced with pain and guilt. This is the stage where you’ll hear people wishing it had been them or expressing remorse that they have survived. The Kubler-Ross model of grief stages calls this bargaining, but at its core, it’s just about learning to embrace and accept the pain. Experiencing and embracing this stage can help you move forward.
Next, people will experience the anger stage. This can often occur concurrently with the pain stage, with anger becoming a tool to mask the pain and guilt that often accompanies grief. It can be hard to process on your own, so counseling may be a good option.
Once the anger fades, grief often turns into depression. The reality of the situation has sunk in, and your emotional state begins to spiral downward. Seeking the assistance of a mental health expert, especially one that specializes in grief counseling, can help patients make their way through this stage.
5. The Upward Turn
The final stage in the Kubler-Ross method is acceptance, but there is more to it than that. Modern experts have split this step into three parts, beginning with the upward turn. At this point, life may seem to be calmer and more organized. It can be a great starting point for building hope and planting the idea that things might get back to normal soon.
This is where things start to feel normal and individuals may begin to be more functional. Coping strategies that you’ve learned throughout the stages of grief will help you navigate the days where the pain feels like it might overwhelm you.
The last stage, as with the Kubler-Ross method, is called acceptance. Accepting the loss makes it easier to look to the future. This doesn’t mean instant happiness or that you’ve gotten over your loss. Instead, you’ve gathered the tools to help you move forward in a positive manner.
How Long Does Grief Last?
Even with these stages, there is no way to know how long grief might last. It might feel like the world is ending, but it is important to remember you’re not alone in this. If you’re experiencing grief, contact us to learn more about our affordable, reliable and accessible care.