Understanding Grief: How to Identify and Manage the Stages of Grief

grief

Life is full of ups and downs. Occasionally, it feels like the downs are hitting harder than the ups. Sometimes, we have to face the unthinkable.

Grief is a normal human emotion in the face of disappointments, loss, and tragedy. However, the way we handle grief and express varies greatly between people. Some of us aren't are so good at understanding grief and it can talk a huge toll on our lives.

Today, we are going to talk about identifying and managing the different stages of grief. Read ahead to learn more working through grief.

Understanding Grief

Experiencing grief means you are feeling deep sorrow. Typically, this occurs following the loss of a loved one but there are other reasons this can happen.

Layoffs, heartbreaks, failures, and witnessing the effects of natural disasters are things that can cause grief in our hearts. It is important to understand that what's your grief might be almost easy to brush off for someone else.

Although we all react differently and have unique ways to express grief, psychologists have identified several distinct stages.

The Kubler-Ross Model of Grief

Frustrated with the lack of understanding of grief among doctors and medical students, Dr. Elisabeth Kulber-Ross wrote On Death and Dying in 1969. She was inspired by her close work with terminal patients.

She intended her model to explain the way patients with terminal illnesses face their diagnoses. It was not intended to be linear, in fact.

However, it serves as a great way to begin to understand how people react to any type of bad news. Her model is now taught to medical and psychology students throughout the world.

Shock and Denial

Traditionally, denial is the first stage of grief. Kubler-Ross worked with terminally ill patients so let's use her classic example of the patient who refuses to believe a serious diagnosis they have been given.

They will insist that the results have been mixed up or that the equipment is broken. 

'Shock' was added later to describe the paralysis and sensation of numbness that happens immediately after bad news is delivered. Physicians are trained to carefully give bad news to patients but anyone might find themselves in a similar situation.

Anger

After the initial shock subsides, people eventually come to realize they can not keep denying the truth. The initial reaction to this new reality is anger.

In this stage, we tend to lash out and find someone or something to blame. We might act angrily towards those around us or those we deem responsible.

The anger might be directed towards the person who passed ("I told him to stop drinking like that!"), people who legitimately wronged us, or ourselves. We might wonder how God could allow something so terrible to happen.

Bargaining

Here, we try to avoid something inevitable by changing our behavior. Someone with advanced lung cancer might quit smoking and go to church every day in an attempt to reverse the diagnosis or buy more time.

We might attempt to find a reason things happen. In this phase, we ask what if and wonder what could've happened if only we did things differently.

We feel desperate in these moments and we can have very strong feelings of self-blame.

Depression

In this stage, the initial doubt and rage are over and we have no choice but the lament in sorrow. We feel like there is no point in fighting anymore and nothing really matters.

We might feel like there is no point in living at all.

Although it is normal to feel sad, feelings of hopelessness and suicidal thoughts should never be ignored. Please don't bottle up everything and seek professional help.

Testing and Reconciliation

These are other stages that were added later on. This is when we realize that despite the circumstances we're facing, it's probably better to try something different.

This can mean something different for everybody. Maybe it means that we are going to try to see our friends again after a period of isolation. For others, it means going to therapy.

This is an extremely important step on the road to recovery. We're still in pain but we're just going to fake it 'til we make it.

Acceptance and Healing

Acceptance is the final stage of Kubler-Ross' model of grief. In this stage, we come to the conclusion that we can't change the facts and that is, well, acceptable. 

It doesn't necessarily mean that we dancing on tables but we've come to understand that failure, deceit, loss, sickness, and death are all parts of human existence.

Physical Symptoms of Grief

Grief, anxiety, and depression is powerful enough to cause physical symptoms, too. 

They include headaches, dry mouth, nausea, loss of appetite, weight loss, pains aches, and fatigue. Contrarily, some people experience increased appetite with binge eating that leads to weight gain.

Also, some people can experience chest pain. This can be due to a medical emergency so it is best to call 911 if this occurs.

How to Heal

Everyone is going to respond differently to various treatments. Speaking to a medical professional about your feelings is crucial.

Medications can be useful and there are other options. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is key to learning strategies on how to deal with grief.

Other people might benefit from things such as yoga, spiritual counseling, and other healing methods.

Allow Yourself the Chance to Heal

As long as sickness, death, deception, and disappointment continues to be a thing, we will always have a reason to grief. It is completely normal and human to grieve following a loss.

No matter what happened, there is always something you can do about it even if you can change the past. Understanding grief and its stages is important to manage your emotions. 

Allow yourself to heal. Visit this blog for more information on recovery and wellness.