When a loved one dies, the pain and grief can feel unbearable. It may feel like these feelings will never end. It’s normal to feel angry, sad, confused, shocked, or in disbelief.
While there’s no correct or incorrect way to grieve, it can be helpful to understand the five stages of grief. Moving through these stages is part of the healing process. Remember, while the loss will never disappear, your feelings will lessen and you’ll be better able to cope as time continue and you move through the grief steps.
These steps, known as DABA are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. They don’t necessarily happen in that specific order, but you’ll likely experience these emotions at some point in your grief process. This is normal. It’s also normal to undergo this process during other times of loss or hardship, like divorce or illness.
For most, denial is the first stage of grief. This can also be referred to as shock by some. When you hear the news that a loved one has died, your first instinct might be to not believe it, especially if the death is sudden. This denial is an attempt for your brain to comprehend the news. Through denial, your mind is attempting to use a defense mechanism to survive and protect against the pain. In this stage, you may question your reality without that person or how to move forward.
For many, the second stage is anger. It’s normal to feel angry when someone dies. During this stage, you may also feel thoughts of loneliness, depression, anxiety or uncertainty. These thoughts can last for days to months. It’s common to blame others in this phase. You may blame the doctors, other loved ones or even yourself. It’s also common to feel aggravated and lash out at others.
Remember, again, these feelings of anger are normal. It can be helpful to talk to others or rely on a support system during these times. Sharing your feelings can help reduce pent-up anger.
During the bargaining stage, it’s common to ask, “what if?” You may also think things like “I’d do anything to get my loved one back” or “I’d do anything to see them again.” It’s common during this time to look back on the time you spent with your loved one and reminisce. It’s essential to practice self-care during this stage. Engage in calming activities or hobbies you enjoy. It’s OK to take time to relax and recover.
After you’ve experienced the above stages, it can be common to experience some level of depression. You may feel increased feelings of sadness and apathy. You may also have trouble sleeping or may sleep too much. You may feel like you have less of an appetite, as well. Although you may feel lethargic, try to avoid isolating yourself during this stage. Reach out to loved ones or professionals about how you feel. Many coping methods can help.
The final stage of the grief process is acceptance. This is the stage where we accept the reality of the situation. You may still feel sadness or feelings of loss, but you will begin to accept your new reality and begin thinking about the future. You may even tell yourself that eventually, things will be OK. You will learn to move past the pain and begin to feel more like yourself.
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