Recently I have been speaking with clients and was even interviewed about how people generally think of, or understand “grief.” You can see the whole interview here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dr2CC5r37OM
Of course, this then made me think that although people have often heard of the “Kubler-Ross” stages of grief, many do not understand the deeper details behind this model. The model had five stages of grief through a series of five emotions: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. It’s important to know that Elizabeth Kubler–Ross discussed this in her 1969 book, On Death and Dying. The book explored the experience of dying through interviews with terminally ill patients and described Five Stages of Dying: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance (DABDA).
This was then extended to the experience that many feel in the process of grieving other losses. Today a 7-stage model is often used which I have summarized below:
- Shock and denial. This is a stage of disbelief and numbed feelings.
- Pain and guilt. Here a person may feel that the loss is unbearable and that they are making other people’s lives harder because of their feelings and needs.
- Anger and bargaining. Here a person may lash out, telling God or a higher power that you’ll do anything they ask if they’ll only grant some relief from these feelings.
- Depression. There may be a period of isolation and loneliness during which a person may also process and reflect on the loss.
- The upward turn. At this point, the stages of grief like anger and pain have decreased, and a person feels more calm and relaxed.
- Reconstruction and working through. A person can begin to put pieces of their life back together and move forward.
- Acceptance and hope. This is an acceptance of a new life focus/direction and a sense of possibility for the future.
As an example, this may be the presentation of stages from a breakup or divorce:
- Shock and denial: “She absolutely wouldn’t do this to me. She’ll realize she’s wrong and be back here tomorrow.”
- Pain and guilt: “How could she do this to me? She is so selfish! How did I mess this up?”
- Anger and bargaining: “If she’ll give me another chance, I’ll be a better boyfriend. I’ll give her my full attention and give her everything she asks.”
- Depression: “I’ll never have another relationship. I’m doomed to fail everyone.”
- The upward turn: “The end was not easy, but it’s possible that I could see myself in another relationship.”
- Reconstruction and working through: “I need to evaluate that relationship and learn from my mistakes.”
- Acceptance and hope: “I have a lot to offer another person. I just have to meet them.”
The key to understanding grief is realizing that no one experiences the same thing. Although it is a universal experience, grief is very personal, and a person may feel something different in each grief or in each experience related to the same grief (like different thoughts yesterday vs. today about the same experience). Two people experiencing the same grief situation (e.g., death of a family member) will also experience their grief differently from one another. One person may need several weeks for healing, another may need many years.
If you decide you need help handling or managing feelings and changes related to a grief or loss situation (or many), a mental health professional is a good resource for expressing your feelings and finding a sense of assurance related to these not-easy but very meaningful emotions.
I am here to help too so please reach out to me if you are interested in working with Grief Recovery with me. You will notice that this process is slightly different than the stages of grief above that many psychologists/psychotherapists/healthcare professionals work with. At the end of the day, the therapeutic relationship you have with the healthcare professional you are working with will be the most important factor in your healing. With your intention and true desire to heal of course. A mindful attention to your goal of healing helps immensely (and yes this is possible!). Do work with a practitioner that you feel most comfortable in sharing your most honest truth with – yes, this may mean calling a few practitioners to see how you feel in a short communication before you choose one to work with – and this little step will also show you how committed you are to getting into a healthier heart and mind space. This is how you will get your best results for healing. I hope you will also experience the positive transformational changes that grief can bring into our lives. Open yourself up to true healing and you will open yourself to miraculous blessings too.
Wishing you healthy grieving!
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