“Healing comes in waves, and maybe today the wave hit the rocks. But that’s okay darling. You are still healing. You are still healing.”
Grief is a process that I would not wish upon anyone. It feels like it’s never-ending because that void will never be filled. It’s hard to accept death, and time does not heal this particular wound. That’s the reality. You think you’re okay and then one day you see something that reminds you of the person, and you break down like it’s the first time. That’s okay. What’s important is to take more steps forwards than you do backwards. Sooner than later, you will be at peace.
Someone I know told me that she took ten years to finally finish grieving over her loss. But that’s okay because human connections can be so strong, and getting over someone will not take a day or a month. Knowing the stages of grief can help you with your healing because as long as you can identify the stage you are at, you will know whether you are headed in the right direction.
In 1969, a Swiss-American psychiatrist named Elizabeth Kübler-Ross wrote in her book “On Death and Dying” that grief could be divided into five stages. Her observations came from years of working with terminally ill individuals.
Here are the stages of grief.
It’s hard to accept that someone who was once so alive is no more. Death is final and that’s why many people have a hard time accepting the news when they first hear it. It’s not unusual to respond to the intense and often sudden feelings by pretending the loss or change isn’t happening. Denying it gives you time to more gradually absorb the news and begin to process it.
In this stage, you are bound to block out the words and hide from the facts. You start to believe that life is meaningless, and nothing is of any value any longer.
Once the denial phase is over, anger starts to kick in. You will question yourself and even blame people for the person’s death. Anger may be directed at our dying or deceased loved one. Rationally, you know the person is not to be blamed. Emotionally, however, you may resent the person for causing you pain or for leaving you. You feel guilty for being angry, and this makes you angrier. Not everyone will experience this stage, and some may linger here.
This stage is characterized by a lot of introspection. We want life returned to what it was and we want our loved one restored. We want to go back in time. Find the tumour sooner, recognize the illness more quickly, or stop the accident from happening. You will spend a lot of time wondering how you could have done things differently. Guilt is often bargaining’s companion. It is a weaker line of defence to protect us from the painful reality.
Depression is characterized by extreme sorrow or sadness. This stage is necessary for the healing process. It can be difficult and messy. It can feel overwhelming. You may feel foggy, heavy, and confused. Sadness and regret predominate this type of depression. We worry about the costs and burial. We worry that, in our grief, we have spent less time with others that depend on us. The other type of depression is subtle and, in a sense, perhaps more private. It is our quiet preparation to separate and to bid our loved one farewell. It’s important to note that it’s important to understand that this depression is not a sign of mental illness. It is the appropriate response to a great loss.
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This is the final stage of grieving. This stage is often confused with the notion of being “all right” or “OK” with what has happened. However, it’s impossible to ever feel okay with what has happened. In the acceptance stage, you accept the reality that your loved one is physically gone and recognise that this new reality is the permanent reality. In fact, there will be days where you cry like it’s the first time you received the news. But that’s okay. Look to acceptance as a way to see that there may be more good days than bad, but there may still be bad days, and that is okay. It is important to note that this might take years.
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