The five stages of grief and how to cope with losing a loved one.
Losing someone who meant the world to you is one of life’s greatest challenges. You might feel helpless right now – like the whole world has fallen in on you – but stay strong; losing the people we love is an awful inevitability and one we (sadly) must all experience several times throughout our lives. However, whether it was a life taken tragically short or a good run coming to an upsetting end, death never gets any easier.
Staying strong needn’t mean locking up your feelings and throwing away the key, though; we all must give ourselves time to grieve, even when we’re tasked with the difficult process of organising a funeral.
In an effort to help, here is an outline of the five universal stages of mourning and grief, together with some advice to try and help you cope at this difficult time.
Disbelief and denial are usually the first reactions to death; you may feel numb to what’s happened – like it hasn’t really hit you yet. You shouldn’t feel ashamed of this, or be made to feel like you don’t care; it’s a natural response which serves as a way of protecting you. Death can be overwhelming, so you only want to let in what you can handle at this early stage.
Eventually, the numbness will fade and the denial stage will end as you begin to develop the ability to cope. Grieve in your own time, not someone else’s.
When you start to feel the impact of your loss, we’re almost always unprepared for the pain it brings. You’ll naturally feel angry – even if you don’t know what at. If you’ve lost someone close to you, you might feel anger because they’ve abandoned you. If you have faith in a higher power, you could begin to question it. The cause of death could also contribute, especially if you believe fault can be attributed.
We feel angry when grieving because we’re helpless and powerless to change what’s happened. But as you begin to recognise your anger, and acknowledge that this anger simply highlights the love you had for the deceased, it will begin to fade. However, it’s important to remember that you may not experience the stages in a linear fashion; any stage could be repeated several times.
As the anger towards others fades, though, you might be left feeling angry at yourself. ‘Was there anything I could or should have done to prevent this?’ It’s a common question as guilt enters the grieving process. You’ll search for a way to turn back the clock, and continually ask “What if?”
Remember – it’s not your fault. Don’t allow feelings of responsibility to overcome you, as remorse can be a slippery slope that it’s hard to climb back up.
Sadly, the realisation that there is no way to change what’s happened is a bleak one. This is the darkest stage of the grieving process; your sadness feels like it will always be there. And it will, to an extent; but not like it is during a stage of depression following a great loss.
You have to know that what you’re going through is normal. It’s not a worrying sign of mental illness, or strange behaviour. The strange thing would be to not experience some form of depression at all.
Talk to people. Try your hardest not to shut out the people who love you.
With time comes acceptance – and it’s something you should welcome. Acceptance doesn’t mean that you’ve ‘got over’ what has happened, nor does it mean you have moved on and feel fine.
We never forget the loved ones who pass away; the best we can do is come to terms with the fact they’re no longer here, and take each new day as it comes.
Your life is different now though, and it will be what you make of it. Grief is an essential part of life – like we said; it’s one of our greatest challenges. It can’t be rushed, or ignored, or tamed in any way.
You will get through it in your own time and in your own way, though; carrying all the lovely memories of that person forever in your heart.