As I mentioned in my last blog, it is commonly accepted that there are 5 stages of grief. These are denial, anger, depression, bargaining and acceptance. The stages may not necessarily occur in that order and they may be experienced in various levels of intensity by each person because everyone goes through grief in their own unique way and at their own pace. It is important not to feel that you must go through all the stages or that you should be at a particular stage at a particular time. They are merely guidelines to help us cope with the grieving process. They might help to make sense of what we are feeling and to know that it is okay to feel this way.
Sometimes it is easier to deny what is happening rather than face the reality that we have lost someone or something we loved very dearly. This is a normal reaction. The feelings can be so strong we feel they may overwhelm us. Denial is our body’s way of protecting us to help us come to terms with the initial shock and pain. It helps us to cope and blocks out everything except what we can handle at that particular moment. It helps us to survive until we feel ready to let in the pain and grief that comes with whatever we have lost. In time the feelings will come to the surface and then the healing process can begin.
After the death of a loved one, we may be angry towards doctors for not being able to cure the person, our family perhaps, because they don’t seem to understand what we are feeling or we may even feel anger towards the person or thing we have loved and lost for leaving us on our own. It is also quite natural to feel anger towards God for seeming to let this awful thing happen to us. We may question our faith and if there is a God why did he take the one thing we held most dear in this world. Those are all valid feelings and a quite normal response to loss. Underneath the anger there will be other emotions trying to get out and in time they will be dealt with. Rationally we know that no one is to blame for what happened but emotionally it is easier to be angry and deflect the blame somewhere else.
Depression is a natural reaction to a significant loss and it may feel like being in a deep, bottomless pit with no way out. It can be so overwhelming that indeed there may be feelings of wondering whether there is any point in going on and if life will ever be worth living again. It can totally overtake all rational thinking but it is a normal and necessary step to go through along the journey of grieving. Depression after a death or loss can take many forms from being unable to sleep, lack of appetite, loneliness, feelings of emptiness or isolation to crying constantly. Those are all natural responses to a deep loss and may or may not affect every person.
Bargaining can sometimes begin before the loss is even felt like promising the sun, moon and stars if our loved one is spared. We want to hold onto the belief that if something can be done everything will be alright. We may become preoccupied with what we could have done to prevent the loss. It goes hand in hand with guilt and remorse which are valid emotions but realistically we know, but do not want to admit, that nothing could have prevented what happened. Again it is a coping mechanism to avoid dealing with the emotion associated with the loss. In time this will also pass with the right help and support.
In time it is possible to accept the loss that we have deeply felt with the death or loss of someone or something special and dear to us. It means eventually making peace with the loss and letting go of the anger and pain. Acceptance is not something that will happen overnight and may happen only slowly over time. It doesn’t mean that we will ever forget the person we loved and lost but that we are ready to move on and accept that life has changed. We will in time learn to live and cope with it.
Dealing with grief and loss is not easy and it is important to remember that everyone is unique in the way they deal with their grief. There is no right or wrong way. At Cara Counselling Loughrea we provide a space to talk in confidence to a Counsellor to help make sense of the feelings and emotions associated with grief and loss. At your own pace we can work together to discover your strengths to help cope with those feelings and emotions. It is through working together that the potential for healing can occur.