Stages of Loss and Grief
Stages of Loss and Grief
Some questions grievance counsellors often hear are ‘Which stage am I in now?’… ‘How long does a particular stage last?’… and, sometimes even ‘Am I grieving right?’
The notion of bereavement based on the ‘Five Stages of Loss and Grief’ has slowly gained popularity and for most people, is the keystone to understanding their loss. Contained to five unbreakable rules, bereavement has lost all nuances of sensitivity. Mostly, the rules are misunderstood and that adds to the pain of those who are already deep in grief.
A model developed by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, The Five Stages of Loss and Grief is based on the observations made on the emotional states of patients who were terminally ill and who were coming to terms with their eventual loss of life. Later, she developed this into a general model of loss that happened due to bereavement and also due to any personal loss like redundancy or even breakdown of relationships.
The Five Stages of Loss and Grief developed by Kubler-Ross are:
1.Denial and Isolation –Denying the reality of what has happened is the first reaction on learning about the death of a loved one. Ignoring the reality or not wanting to hear the reality is a defence mechanism, a transitory reaction that helps us to endure the initial rush of pain.
2. Anger – Anger surfaces as the protective effects of isolation and denial begins to recede. Anger can be aimed at anyone or anything and can also be rational or irrational.
3. Bargaining – A normal response to the feelings of helplessness that arise from such devastating situations, we ask ‘if only’ questions in an attempt to change what is inevitable. We try bargaining with God or some such higher power as an attempt to alter what has happened, knowing we cannot. This is also a defence mechanism to shield us from the painful reality.
4. Depression – Two types of depressions are associated with grief. One is reactive depression which is a reaction to the practical implications of the loss like change in social or financial status. The major emotions related to this depression are regret and sadness. The second one is more personal as it is a deep sense of absence of the loved person in our life and is also a preparation towards accepting the fact that they are no more in our life.
5. Acceptance – In due course, acceptance in some form is reached. We understand and accept that our loved one is gone and can never return. We finally begin to see beyond the events of the death and calm returns as grief recedes. The grieving person is finally ready to return to a normal life.
Valid points in a person’s journey through grief, for some it has become a step-by-step guide that they have to go through before they reach the stage of a grief free life. The misunderstanding is mainly because of the word ‘stages’ used to describe the journey.
By stages, we understand that it is one phase followed by another until we reach a conclusion. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross considered them to be aspects of bereavement. These stages do not have any order. Acceptance can come without the Anger stage or bargaining stage or Anger and Bargaining can appear even after acceptance has been reached. Moreover, these stages can happen simultaneously or one can swing between one stage and another.
Moreover, the belief that these stages are inflexible can make the bereaved undergo even more suffering as they may feel that they are not grieving in the proper manner or that something is wrong in how they are grieving.
One has to understand that nothing is wrong and all these emotions are just the mind coming to terms with the loss of a loved one. Emotions may waver from one to another and pain may come and go. Eventually, with time, calm and normalcy is restored. During a period of grief, there are many things that seem worrisome, but, ‘what stage am I’ is not one of those.
Coming to terms with bereavement
We all have, at some point of time, suffered the loss of someone we knew very well, and the effect can be no less than devastating. Death has its impact on people around it in varying degrees. It often evokes powerful feelings in a person, and there’s no telling when a person feels (s) he can’t take it anymore. It definitely isn’t as simple as it sounds. With the exception of the final stage, all four stages can be traumatic and can give rise to overwhelming emotions, and the transition from one feeling to the other is not going to be smooth either. Even the feeling of grief comes in several shades – some might feel numbness and be in a state of shock, others might feel an overwhelming sadness and break into tears; some might even feel the energy sapped out from them when confronted with the loss, or express anger at the person or at god or fate for what has happened, and even guilt, at something you may have said or wanted to say to the departed.
Less commonly, bereaved people might show signs of absent-mindedness – this only a temporary state of mind, caused by distraction due to the bereavement, and not likely to last very long.
But it is true that some people have trouble getting over their loss. The simplest solution is talking to people within your family or trusted friends about your loss, how you feel, etc. In case you don’t have anyone you can talk to, there are bereavement services you can contact through the local hospice. A bereavement counsellor will be able to help you cope with your grief.
But how do you know if you need help?
• When you feel the emotion is so intense you can’t go on
• When you begin neglecting yourself and your routine
• When you begin having suicidal thoughts
Leaving these feelings unattended can lead to more trouble, as in it could take its toll on a person’s health, and some might take to alcohol and drug abuse to cope with their grief.
The time it takes for a person to get over his loss can vary from person to person, and a lot depends on their emotional stability. It’s only a matter of time before you get over your loss and learn to move on in life.