Understanding Grief and Loss

We will all experience grief multiple times throughout our life, to varying degrees. We can grieve a loved one who has passed away, a relationship that has ended, or even a dream that cannot be fulfilled. Grief can feel like a slow, dull ache that constantly eats at our heart. It can be an intense waterfall of emotion that swallows us whole. It can be somewhere in between an ache and an avalanche and can change daily.  There is no set right or wrong way to deal with grief and everyone will experience and cope with it differently.

While grief is different for everyone, it is painful for all. While most people despise feeling pain or hurt, it is also necessary for the healing process. We do tend to live in a society where only happy, positive feelings are encouraged and talked about. Unfortunately that is not realistic of life. While positive feelings are a part of life, so too are negative ones. As tough as it might be, grief needs to be felt and experienced in order to be able to move forward in a healthy way.

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross was the first to speak out about the stages of grief way back in 1969. Her model is still applicable today, though many sources have amended it or added additional stages. The stages of grief can be helpful to know as it can provide a comparison point for our own grief. The stages don’t have to be followed in order and we might feel each stage differently and with varying intensity. The stages are as follows:

  1. Denial – Usually our first response is to deny whatever is hurting us. It is a typical response that comes out of shock.
  2. Anger – Once the situation becomes clear, we are often flooded with emotions and become angry at the situation. We might take our anger out on friends, family, strangers or even objects. We see injustice in our situation.
  3. Bargaining – We may try to reach out to a higher power and make a deal to change the situation. We try to regain control of a situation that is out of our control.
  4. Depression – We are sad and upset, trying to come to terms with our loss. We may struggle to adjust to life without our loved one or dream.
  5. Acceptance – We see the situation for what it is and can come to some type of peace with it. It does not necessarily mean we are happy and all is okay, but it is acknowledging the situation for what it is all allowing ourselves to begin moving forward.

When you are experiencing grief and loss, please be gentle with yourself. It is an extremely difficult time that doesn’t have a quick fix. Allow yourself to feel and don’t be afraid to ask for help and support from friends and family. Time doesn’t heal grief, but it can make it more manageable. We may always grieve a loved one who has passed, but that grief will change over time and we will learn to live with it.



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