Fortunately, understanding the progression of grief can make it more manageable.
The Classic Stages of Grief
- Denial is often the first phase. You may be aware, but there could be a part of you that has not accepted that the end is near. You may even hold onto hope that perhaps this is not going to happen or it’s a mistake. Overwhelmingly negative experiences can be difficult to absorbed immediately.
- Anger arrives when you see the inequity of loss or feel powerless. It’s that lack of control, the arbitrary nature of loss, that can be upsetting to the point of rage. Anger may not take obvious external forms, but it may be present.
- Bargaining begins when you attempt to set up some type of “deal” that, if honored, will alter the course of events. It can take the form of promising to donate time and money to a noble cause. It can be offering to be a better spouse, friend, or even person, in hopes that such a deal will stop loss. It’s an attempt to regain control after feeling powerless.
- Depression enters when the realization comes that, irrespective of what you say, do, feel, think or promise, the loss is here to stay. This is when the pain is at its most severe. You may reminisce about the past and feel sorrow knowing that there will be no future memories. You are realizing that what you had has disappeared forever.
- Acceptance is the last phase, when you have emotionally and intellectually dealt with what has happened and you’re ready to move forward with living. It doesn’t mean you forget, or even stop caring, but that you’re able to look back without experiencing devastating anguish. You can know that you have dealt with loss successfully.
Why Does Grief Persist for So Long?
One important note: If grief goes on for months at a time with no change, it may be time to seek medical and psychiatric help. Loss can be a catalyst for other issues to emerge. Do not assume that grief means you must lead a new life of discomfort. One can learn to live with loss without living in agony.