Grief is universal. Whether it’s from a loved one’s death, job loss, break up or divorce, miscarriage, or retirement, there will always be at least one encounter with grief at some point in everyone’s life.
A theory developed by psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in 1969 suggests that grief could be divided into five distinct stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
“This can’t be happening to me.”
When you first learn about a loss, your mind usually thinks that this isn’t real. Your defense mechanism makes you feel shocked or numb as a temporary way to deal with the rush of overwhelming emotions.
A person on a denial stage during a breakup or divorce, for example, would think they are just upset and that it’ll be over soon, or someone who received a terminal illness diagnosis might deny the results, thinking it was a mistake.
“Why is this happening? Who is to blame?”
As reality sets in, you face the pain of your loss. You may feel frustrated and powerless, which turns into anger later on. A person in this stage will tend to accuse other people, a higher power, or life in general. Being angry with a loved one who broke up with you or blaming a deceased beloved for not taking care of themselves is natural as well.
“Undo what happened, and in return, I will …”
This is the stage where you dwell on what you could’ve done to prevent the loss. At this point, you try to strike a deal with someone of a higher power, or you wish that things could have been different (“If only…” or “What if…”). A person, after losing a job on a bargaining stage, would say, “If only I worked so much harder, they would have seen how valuable I am.”
“I’m too sad to do anything.”
Having a hard time sleeping, feeling of worthlessness and hopelessness, crying, and loss of appetite are some of the signs that you’re depressed.This is wheresadness sets in as you begin to understand the loss and its effect on your life. In this stage, feeling overwhelmed, regretful, and lonely is natural.
“I’m at peace with what happened.”
This is the final stage of grief, where you finally accept the reality of your loss. Change is inevitable. You might still feel sad, but this time, you’re able to start moving forward with your life. Some examples of acceptance include beginning a new path after a job loss or deciding to have a cremation ring made to cherish and honor a deceased loved one.
Always remember that grief is very personal. - every person goes through these phases in their own way. You can go back and forth between them or miss one or more stages altogether; nevertheless, never judge how a person experiences their grief.
While grieving a loss is unavoidable, there are several ways you can do to help cope with the pain. Do not hesitate to seek guidance and support from people who care for you. Time will come, and you’ll finally be able to pick up the pieces of your life and move forward.
Having trouble identifying what negative feeling you’re feeling now? Read ”Teen Depression: The What’s, Why’s, and How’s” to learn more.