Grief and loss are universal and experienced by all people, across all cultures.
The 5 stages of grief is a theory developed by psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross who suggests we all go through five distinct stages after losing a loved one.
As we are grieving, we spend different lengths of time working through each step and experience each stage with different levels of intensity. It’s important to understand these stages as it allows us to express the different emotions, not squash them.
So, what are these 5 stages of grief?
Stage 1. Denial
Denial helps us minimize the overwhelming pain of loss, allowing us to process the reality and survive the emotional pain. This step aims to slow the grieving process down and let us take it one step at a time.
During this stage we tend to reflect on the experiences we have shared with the person we have lost, and we will start to wonder how our life will look without this person in it.
Stage 2. Anger
Anger is a common emotion to experience after the loss of a loved one. Anger is a less vulnerable emotion, so it enables us to express it with less fear of judgment.
As the anger subsides, we will start to think more rationally about what’s happened and feel the emotions the anger has pushed aside.
Stage 3. Bargaining
The loss of a loved one can cause us to bargain to try and avoid our current pain. In this stage of grief, you may find yourself creating a lot of “what if” and “if only” statements.
A common example of bargaining after the loss of a loved one is: “If only I had called them that night, they would still be here”
Stage 4. Depression
As our adrenaline and emotional fog starts to clear, the loss will begin to feel more present and unavoidable.
It’s in these moments that our sadness grows, and we find ourselves retreating inward. During this stage we may become less sociable and reach out less to others about what we are going through.
Stage 5. Acceptance
When we come to a place of acceptance, we are no longer resisting the reality of the situation, and we are not struggling with trying to change it.
Acceptance may mean that we are having more good days than bad ones. It is during this stage that we start to reach out to others and become involved in their lives again.
The key to understanding grief is realising that no one experiences it the same way. It is deeply personal, and you may feel different every time you go through it. Just know, you are never alone and keep your support close to help you through the different stages.