A large part of my job is hearing of the struggles and losses of others and helping them heal and overcome those losses. Part of that healing comes from understanding what is normal and to be expected in certain situations.
I feel as though I am personally in a season of loss, and haven’t gone more than a few weeks without hearing of someone I care about losing a loved one. Grief is thick and strong and whether it is grief that comes from the loss of a relationship, or the loss of someone to illness or tragedy, it has varying shades, and the stages are the same.
I have been asked how I can help others if I haven’t experienced the situations that they are going through, and my answer is always the same: no two people experience the same thing in the same way, however I have experienced the emotions that come along with the different situations that I help others through.
I know sadness, loss, pain, and grief, and I also know joy, love, happiness, and connection. The other answer I typically give when posed with this question is: You don’t see cancer doctor because they’ve also had cancer, but you see them because they understand the science and steps that will help you heal.
No one can know exactly what a loss may look and feel like for you, however there are 5 common stages of grief that have been outlined and studied by Swiss Psychiatrist, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross that are well known and used by many helpers and healers and understanding where you are in terms of these stages helps normalize the situation and know what to expect. The common acronym for the 5 stages is, DABDA:
1. Denial: in the face of a loss, the first reaction is denial that this could possibly happen. Denial is, “this isn’t happening,” “this can’t be happening,” “there must be some sort of misunderstanding or mistake,” “we can fix this.” It usually lasts only a short time, because it is difficult to deny the outward indications of what is happening.
2. Anger: when denial no longer works, many people move to anger. Anger is, “Why would she be in that spot at that time, doesn’t’ she know how dangerous it is!?” “I can’t stand him anyway,” “I can’t believe God let this happen!” “How could I have let this happen? I can’t even look at myself right now.” People become angry at the person they’ve lost, others involved for causing the loss, or themselves for not doing something to prevent the loss.
3. Bargaining: in this stage people sometimes bargain with God, or themselves in order to reverse the loss or impending loss. Bargaining is, “please God, just bring them back, and I swear I’ll live a better lifestyle,” “If I could just have one more moment with that person, I know I can save them, and our relationship,” This is seen more in situations that are less severe such as the loss of a job, but can occur in all types of losses.
4. Depression: in this stage, the person experiences depression, and may stop doing daily activities. They may refuse to leave the house or have visitors and have much less energy. It’s also common for people in this stage to question life and the reason for moving forward if they too are going to die someday, or be met with the loss of another job, romantic relationship, or friendship.
5. Acceptance: in this final stage, the person comes to accept the loss, and begins to make peace and resolves to move forward and find ways to commemorate their time with a person they’ve lost. Acceptance is, “this is happening, and my relationship is over, but I will move forward and look for what I truly want in my next relationship,” “although I’ve lost my mom, her legacy will love on in me, and I will teach my own children the lessons she taught me.”
Although these stages are presented in a logical order, it’s common for you to go back and forth between the stages. There is no set length for each stage, however if you are in the depression stage for longer than 2 months after the loss of a loved one and feel as though you are unable to get out of that sadness, have difficulty sleeping, and experience weight loss and low energy, this is a sign of Major Depression and you should seek the help of a therapist, psychiatrist, or consult your physician.
Depression symptoms after divorce, break-up, or losing a job that are lasting longer than one month can also be cause for concern, and the same advice applies.
It’s not possible to remove the various trials, peaks and valleys from our lives, but it is possible to find better ways to cope. If you are having difficulty coping with a recent loss, I’m here to help point you in the right direction and you can contact me at (909)226-6124 for a free phone consultation and we can talk about ways you start to feel better and pull yourself out of grief.