When we lose a loved one, it is not an easy change to overcome! While every one of us might grieve differently, studies explain the different stages of grief.
1. Shock & Denial phase
This is the easiest instant reaction our minds can conjure. To deny that someone has passed away. Some get shocked hearing the news. Ultimately, disbelief governs the mind. For some this may last days, for others it may be weeks or years to get through this phase. Some find it easier to switch their focus onto another friend or colleague and mentally relate to them – helping them avoid accepting the fact that the original relationship is no more, and the other person whom they lean on would take their place. The new relationship might have had an overlap phase, or might be a new one. Somehow, it is a way for the mind to hold on to someone or something in the absence of the other person (who passed away).
2. Pain & Guilt
The next stage one goes through is pain blended with guilt. For having lost their loved one, and for themselves surviving without them. Thousands of thoughts fill the mind about what else one could have done to save them, to change the outcome, to change destiny. The Why-did-this-happen drives the thought process. Was there any stone that was left unturned to have been able to save the person who could not survive takes over. For some, it is blended with the survivor’s guilt. The guilt about the time that they could or could-not spend with them seeps in. Moments and memories or lack thereof add on to increase the pain. Some may take onto drugs or alcohol, or become workaholics to wade through this phase.
Frustration leads to anger. Bottled up emotions start surfacing in this stage. Someone becomes the target of your emotion during this phase. Whether this is true or not, our minds want to blame someone for the loss. Those who are in other stages of denial or have accepted reality easily become the target of the anger. Try not to lose your temper and damage your existing relationships. Words spilled in anger cannot be taken back, and leaves a scar on the surviving ones. Try not to hurt someone’s sentiment to a point of no return.
One wants to share their perspective with others and convince them of their rationale. While they try to find meaning in what happened and how things turned out, it continues to be a struggle in their minds. Some share their perspectives with friends and family, some bargain with God to return the lost ones, some bargain with others to save some of the existing relationships.
Some sway between anger & bargaining till the reality hits them and they move to the next phase.
Feels like you have hit rock bottom and continue to spiral downward from there. A long period of sadness where the loss of someone and its repercussions start sinking in. Missing someone in life, not being able to meet them ever again sinks in. Feeling of emptiness sets in and some remain in this phase for months or years. Getting help from a counselor or therapist to navigate through this phase is helpful. One may want to isolate themselves, pondering over memorable moments spent with the loved one, missing them and living amidst memories. Not wanting to interact with others is very common during this phase. Support from friends, family members and extended families help significantly during this phase. However, talking to a stranger becomes easier than talking to a loved one.
6. The upward turn
Slowly and steadily, there is a new normalcy that sets in. Different daily routine gets set in place. Simple activities like brushing, food prepared or eaten, daily activities that were done with the loved one, get replaced with other activities or alternate processes. One starts eating with different people, share memories and converse with others, shop in different places, engage in different conversations to change their minds. As a different norm sets in, one starts looking up in life. There is something to look forward to – to wake up in the morning again.
One starts engaging in normal activities, involve themselves with family & community to discuss and resolve common day to day challenges in an amicable manner. Acceptance does not mean happiness. While the loss of the loved one cannot be replaced, accepting the reality and figuring out a new norm comes naturally. With the pain & turmoil you experienced will not let you become the Choices and preferences change over a period of time. Every choice that involved the loved one, will need to be re-thought, re-evaluated, and life re-organized to accommodate their loss.
Who or What fills the void
Everyone who goes through grief tries to hold on to someone or something else to help fill the void. Holding onto the remaining family, children, friends, colleagues, work to help accept reality and moving onto the next phase is very normal. There is no standard yardstick in terms of the time one would take to move from one stage to another. For some, acceptance comes the very next day, for some it takes a few decades to get there. As this is a very vulnerable phase, care needs to be taken to ensure one does not lean towards bad influences and get caught in the vicious circles. While grief is a very personal experience, one needs to be given the space and time to process the loss, accept it and pull themselves back together.
Writing this post on request from a friend to explain the stages of grief for them to understand the phase they are in and the phases their family members may be in. Understanding how to support each other through the various phases of grief is necessary! Remember, it is a long journey!
Requesting support from a counselor or therapy helps!