Cycles/Stages of Grief an loss
Grief does not run in predictable cycles or stages but is more like a roller coaster or ball of yarn unraveling. At first there are so many emotions that can be described as being in a fog, unable to think or concentrate, having flashbacks and nightmares, insomnia, panic attacks, physical problems, fatigue, fear, depression, loneliness, anger, numbness, guilt, etc. Many use coping mechanisms such as working more, drinking, drugs, isolation, unhealthy relationships, stuffing their emotions, and, yes, even shopping. You are plagued with questions, such as “why,” “now what,” “when will this pain end,” and “where is God now?”
It is important for people who are experiencing grief to understand the stages and what is normal. Although they are unique to each individual and dependent upon the degree of loss and pain, the cycles generally follow four to seven stages but are not necessarily in order. Dr. Eric Scalise (Scalise, 2015, pg 17) describes seven stages but understand that everyone is different and sometimes may go back and forth. It seems as if you take two steps forward and one step back. The stages are shock, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, testing, and acceptance. This is similar to Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’s model that people would go through in accepting death, which includes denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance (Kubler-Ross, 1970).
The initial stage is shock and can be described as feeling overwhelmed, in a fog, or numb, and comes with not only the loss but the incredible amount of decisions and steps that are necessary at first. Unless you have had months to prepare, there are no words to explain why it is important to have family or friends walk through all those decisions with you. The denial stage is explained as the person not recognizing or avoiding the reality of what has happened. This can lead to the stage of anger, which can extend to anger toward your loved one, yourself, and even toward God. Next is the bargaining stage, or attempts to find a way out and can also bring feelings of guilt and “what if” questions. The stage of depression brings feelings of emptiness and realization of the reality taking place. “It is a normal and appropriate response to a great loss and a necessary step in the healing process” (Kessler, 2015). Even though depression is normal, when experiencing a huge loss the amount of time and the degree of depression is significant. Do not hesitate to see a doctor if it continues for weeks. The testing stage is the point that you start exploring new things, looking for the “new normal” and how to adapt to it. The final stage is described as acceptance and evident when we are able to accept our new reality. At some point you have to make a decision whether to live in depression and anger or to do whatever it takes to move forward. It is a gradual progression and painful at times, but worth the work to see the light at the other end of the tunnel.
There will be times you will cry and not even know why. You will not want to move forward or begin that “new chapter,” but want to re-write the old chapter. There are times all you can do is keep putting one foot in front of the other and that is exactly what you need to do. Keep moving, don’t try to do it alone. There are websites, such as www.griefshare.org, which offer workbooks and support groups all over the country. There are also free daily e-mails that will help as you walk this journey to acceptance and healing. Review the resource list included in this website and find something that speaks to you. Then, ultimately, trust God that eventually He will give you peace and direction.
Kessler, D. (2015). The Five Stages of Grief. Retrieved from www.grief.com
Kubler-Ross, E. (1970). On Death and Dying. New York: MacMillan.
Scalise, E. (2015). Introduction to Grief Coaching. Lecture at Light University On-Line. Forest, VA