Understanding the Grief Process

The grief process due to loss can be difficult to go through, but it helps if you know what to expect.

During grief, it is common to have many conflicting feelings. Sadness, anxiety, loneliness, sorrow, anger and guilt often accompany serious losses. Having so many strong feelings can be very stressful.

Identifying your feelings and failing to work through the five stages of grief is harder on the body and mind than it is to actually go through them. Often times people suggest to “look on the bright side,” or other ways of cutting off difficult feelings. The grieving person may feel they have to hide or deny these emotions. Instead, this makes it take longer for the healing to take place.

Some stages of grief are easier to handle and quicker to resolve, while some may seem to go on for an eternity. Often, something you thought was resolved may reappear.

The following are the key components of the grief process:

  1. Shock. You may experience disbelief, denial or feel numb. It may seem as if the world has fallen apart.
  2. Flood of emotions. Crying, screaming and other emotional releases are normal. Crying is a natural healer and stress reducer and should not be held back.
  3. Physical symptoms. You may experience insomnia or sleep more than usual; or you may experience discomfort, fatigue, and loss of appetite or other changes.
  4. Anger. It’s not uncommon to be angry with the loved one for leaving. The best way to work through this is to share these feelings with someone. If you express your anger, it will eventually subside.
  5. Guilt. Even if there is no factual reason for it, you may feel guilty. You may go through “if only” feelings. Openly sharing these feelings with others is very helpful in forgiving yourself.
  6. Depression. You may feel that you will never recover – never be happy again. If you allow yourself to grieve, however, you will eventually regain your happiness. (If you have suicidal feelings, please contact an emergency help line, a family member, or a friend immediately.)
  7. Idealization and realization. At first you may feel that the past was perfect and the future will never be quite as good. As you work through your grief, however, you’ll find that the past was good and bad, and that the future may not be so bleak.
  8. Detachment. As you begin to see the past as the past, you can develop new routines in your life.
  9. Continuing your life. Over time, if the normal stages of grieving have not been inhibited, you will adjust to the loss and go on with life. You do not forget the loss (and are still periodically saddened by it), but you will no longer be consumed by the grief or let it dictate your life.

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