When a loved one dies or gives up on us, or when we come face to face with sad experiences, it becomes quite painful. The pain we feel at that point of time might even be beyond our capacity to explain or completely express. The stages of grief and mourning are universal and are experienced by people from all walks of life, across most cultures. Psychologists have identified five important stages of grief. They are as follows:
1. Denial and isolation – The primary response to an unhappy event, death of a loved one, or loss of any other manner, is to deny the reality of the situation. It is usually a typical reaction to rationalize devastating emotions. It is a defence mechanism that acts as a shock-absorber to the unexpected jolt of a painful news. This is a momentary reaction that carries us through the initial wave of pain.
2. Anger – As the effects of denial begin to fade off, reality and its pain resurface, though we might not yet be ready. This intense emotion is side tracked from our vulnerable core and is redirected and articulated as anger. The anger may be aimed at inanimate objects, complete strangers, friends or even family. Anger may also be directed at the person(s) that were associated with the loss or the unhappy event. Rationally, we know the person is not to be blamed. Emotionally, however, we may resent the person for causing us pain or for departing from our lives. Consequently, we could feel guilty for being angry, and this makes us angrier.
3. Bargaining – At this stage we may make a deal with God or a higher power, in an attempt to postpone the inevitable. This is a weaker line of defence to protect us from the painful reality.
4. Depression – There are two types of depressions associated with grief. The first is a response to the practical implications relating to the loss. Sadness and regret predominate this type of depression. We worry that, in our grief, we have spent less time with others that depend on us. This phase may be eased by simple clarification and reassurance. We may need a bit of helpful cooperation and a few kind words. The second type of depression is more subtle and, in a sense, perhaps more private. It is our quiet preparation to separate and to bid our loved one(s) farewell. Sometimes all we really need is a hug.
5. Acceptance – This phase is marked by withdrawal and calmness. This is not a period of happiness and must be distinguished from depression. Coping with loss is ultimately a deeply personal and singular experience — nobody can help you go through it more easily or understand all the emotions that you’re going through. But others can be there for you and help comfort you through this process.
Interestingly, certain individuals may not necessarily go through all the above mentioned stages and perhaps, not in the same order. All said and done, the best thing you can do is to allow yourself to feel the grief as it comes. Resisting it only will prolong the natural process of healing. It can be an extremely difficult process. If you are not being able to cope with it, it is recommended that you speak to a counsellor.