Since my son dies, I have been dealing from a lot of emotions. Not just from me but from those around me. Every person said that what they (and I) were going through were just a stage of grief. But when I asked for the stages, nobody seemed to know what any were. I had heard of them but could not name what all of them were or in what order. I decided to look it up.
The stages of grief occur after a loved one dies. These should not be confused with the stages of grief one goes through when knowing they or a loved one know they are going to die (though they are very similar). Some sites say there are five and others say there are seven. Really, the only difference is that some are combined into one stage, so I decided to use the 7 stages. Also, everyone is different. Some will go through all stages and not know it while others will skip stages. And there is no timetable for each stage. It is just up to the person.
Finally, like all psychological theories, there are detractors to the stages of grief. I found a lot of articles saying that there is no such thing and that mourning is a personal thing and cannot be categorized like this. This might be true, but I like the thought of what I am going through as “normal” and would rather think that way. It makes me believe there is light at the end of the tunnel. So, let’s take a look at them.
Shock and Denial
This first stage is the shock and disbelief one has at the death of a loved one. It is a numbness and a complete loss of the ability to grasp the situation. There are no emotions and thoughts are confused. It is almost like an emotional short circuit. I had this feeling for about three days though, it is said, it can go for weeks. The feeling is indescribable through words. I learned that shock is what the brain uses to protect the emotions from being overwhelmed. I buy that.
Pain and Guilt
Once shock wears off pain and guilt set in. The pain should be quite obvious. Unbelievable suffering and loss with the inability to control one’s emotions. That hole that people here about is finally felt. Crying is common and completely out of control and can happen at any time. Guilt might also accompany this because what one did or did not do to prevent the loss (even if nothing could have been done). This is a very dangerous time because the individual may not know how to express himself and the suffering can sometimes be too much. These feelings may be unbearable. Life can feel chaotic and not make sense. There is no silver lining.
This part truly sucks. I think this is where I am now.
Anger and Bargaining
This is when the pain turns to rage. Anger at why this happened. It is easy to blame other people, the victim or even God (or all). Bargaining is what one will do with a greater power (God) exchanging the lost loved one for you (“Please take me and bring him back”). This is where relationships can be broken so it is important to self-realize what one is losing control and is angry and try to control it. It is very important, in this stage, to deal with it without alcohol or drugs because it is easy to really lose control.
“Depression”, Reflection and Loneliness
This stage is when the enormity of one’s loss takes hold. One may just reflect and feel sad or even depressed over the loss (remember: there is a difference between sadness and depression. See a counselor if ever depressed). This stage is completely normal and should not be ignored. Do not listen to those who tell you to ignore those feeling or, and this one I love, “snap out of it” (I have heard family members say this). It is a completely normal and healthy way to grieve (again, unless depressed). A sense of emptiness and despair may be felt. And that’s OK. Acknowledge and feel it.
The Upward Turn
Things begin to turn for the better. Life becomes less chaotic and one is able to think more clearly. Stress is lessened and the sadness does not fill your day. Any physical pains that the stress may have caused begin to alleviate. One begins to live life without the one they love.
Reconstruction and Working Through
As one becomes more functional and logical, he will begin to try to put his life back together without the one he loves. This is a huge step especially when one loses a mate. I am not sure if this is as big when one loses a child, parent or sibling.
Acceptance and Hope
In this stage, one learns to accept what has happened and move on. This does not mean happiness will be felt. A tragedy will change an individual for the rest of his life. He will never be the same. One will begin to look forward and make plans for the future. Eventually, one will be able to think of the lost person without feeling the terrible pain and sadness and will have pleasant thoughts about the person. And there will be joy.
These stages are listed in order and separate of each other. But one must understand that emotions are not exact. Some stages may be skipped or they may bleed into each other. To be honest, I do not know where I am. It seems that I have experienced several stages at once including the last two. But, then, I find myself falling back into one of the previous stages. It is very confusing. Where I do find this information helpful is that I can understand that some of the stuff I am going through is normal. The anger, crying, sadness, hopelessness, confusion and rare bouts of happiness are part of the process. It has also helped when talking to my children. They sound so irrational sometimes and their feelings seem so illogical (I can’t really say what they are feeling because it is private). But I now understand why they think the way they do. And I know it will get easier as time passes.
Though I know that the last stages will come, I cannot see them. I cannot imagine getting back to normal. I and my children will just have to let time pass and see what happens.
Follow me on Twitter @RunninFewl
“7 STAGES OF GRIEF.” Recover From Grief, www.recover-from-grief.com/7-stages-of-grief.html.
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