I have lost many people in my life. They all live in Heaven and in my heart. In order to cope with my loss, I have found it helpful to identify the stage that I am in. Sometimes I go through them over and over again. Or I digress a stage or two before I advance to a peaceful place of acceptance.
There is no perfect order or steps that you can take to reach that place. One day it just happens. You might not even realize it, someone else may point it out. When that happens, I often experience an 8th stage. It’s one of guilt that I have made it through even though I really didn’t want to. I feel like I am too young to know all of this. I feel guilty that I have life and the person I love is not here to experience it. That’s actually the very thing that ends up pulling me out of the guilty feelings. Thinking of the person as if they are here and know everything that I am doing. I can imagine that they are proud of me and that they enjoy seeing me be happy. I know that they can feel the sorrow and pain that I feel when I miss them, as well as the joys and triumphs!
Grieving is not good. It is not easy. However, it can be graceful and peaceful.
It is important to note that sometimes we experience these stages when we go through other losses in life. We may feel this way if we a fired from a job that we love, when a close friend moves away, or when someone we love breaks up. Going through a divorce is very much like losing a loved one. Not only the couple mourn the loss of the marriage, it affects everyone they know.
Here is the grief model called “The 7 Stages of Grief”:
1. SHOCK & DENIAL-
You will probably react to learning of the loss with numbed disbelief. You may deny the reality of the loss at some level, in order to avoid the pain. Shock provides emotional protection from being overwhelmed all at once. This may last for weeks.
2. PAIN & GUILT-
As the shock wears off, it is replaced with the suffering of unbelievable pain. Although excruciating and almost unbearable, it is important that you experience the pain fully, and not hide it, avoid it or escape from it with alcohol or drugs.
You may have guilty feelings or remorse over things you did or didn’t do with your loved one. Life feels chaotic and scary during this phase.
3. ANGER & BARGAINING-
Frustration gives way to anger, and you may lash out and lay unwarranted blame for the death on someone else. Please try to control this, as permanent damage to your relationships may result. This is a time for the release of bottled up emotion.
You may rail against fate, questioning “Why me?” You may also try to bargain in vain with the powers that be for a way out of your despair (“I will never drink again if you just bring him back”)
4. “DEPRESSION”, REFLECTION, LONELINESS-
Just when your friends may think you should be getting on with your life, a long period of sad reflection will likely overtake you. This is a normal stage of grief, so do not be “talked out of it” by well-meaning outsiders. Encouragement from others is not helpful to you during this stage of grieving.
During this time, you finally realize the true magnitude of your loss, and it depresses you. You may isolate yourself on purpose, reflect on things you did with your lost one, and focus on memories of the past. You may sense feelings of emptiness or despair.
5. THE UPWARD TURN-
As you start to adjust to life without your dear one, your life becomes a little calmer and more organized. Your physical symptoms lessen, and your “depression” begins to lift slightly.
6. RECONSTRUCTION & WORKING THROUGH-
As you become more functional, your mind starts working again, and you will find yourself seeking realistic solutions to problems posed by life without your loved one. You will start to work on practical and financial problems and reconstructing yourself and your life without him or her.
7. ACCEPTANCE & HOPE-
During this, the last of the seven stages in this grief model, you learn to accept and deal with the reality of your situation. Acceptance does not necessarily mean instant happiness. Given the pain and turmoil you have experienced, you can never return to the carefree, untroubled YOU that existed before this tragedy. But you will find a way forward.
You will start to look forward and actually plan things for the future.
Eventually, you will be able to think about your lost loved one without pain; sadness, yes, but the wrenching pain will be gone. You will once again anticipate some good times to come, and yes, even find joy again in the experience of living.