Grieving the loss of a loved one is one of the hardest journeys in life to travel. Sometimes grief can be surprising, and at other times can be overwhelming. While there’s no instruction book that tells you how to grieve, there are common stages of grief that may help you understand how you’re feeling or processing your loss.
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1. Denial: You may have difficulty believing the loss actually happened, finding yourself in a state of shock or disbelief. “I can’t believe this is happening.”
2. Anger: You may direct anger at the death, your loved ones, the person who died, yourself, the world, or God. “I’m so angry, and I’m not sure why or who I’m angry at.”
3. Bargaining: You may find yourself second-guessing or imagining what you could have done to reverse fate or go back in time to change the outcome. “If only I had done this differently.”
4. Depression: You may feel numb, helpless, empty, sad or exhausted, and not care about much of anything around you. “I just don’t know how I will go on.”
5. Acceptance: You accept the reality of the loss and begin to regain strength and energy. You start adjusting to life without your loved one. “I have found peace. It’s OK to be happy.”
You may move through all five stages in this order, or you may skip a stage, or you may come back to the same one several times. You might start the grieving process before your loved one dies, or grief may catch you by surprise when you are alone later. Remember: grief is unique to each person, and there is no right or wrong way to grieve.
What can I do to get through the grieving process?
- Take care of yourself. Grieving, or being emotionally exhausted can take a serious toll on your health. Try to get plenty of sleep at night, take a nap, eat healthy meals even if you don’t have an appetite, and drink plenty of water as dehydration can cause headaches, joint and muscle pain, and fatigue.
- Talk about your feelings. Release what you feel like inside, even if it seems embarrassing or self-indulgent to tell someone else. Or, find a private outlet to express your feelings such as keeping a journal, starting a project, or reflecting on the good times you spent with your loved one.
- Keep going. It’s OK to want to have time to be by yourself as long as you remember that you also need to get out of the house. Getting out may be as simple as taking a walk around the mall, or having a cup of coffee in the park. Being around other people can remind you of how much life is around you.
- Find small moments to be grateful for. Even in the depths of your grief, there will be small moments that can fill you with gratitude such as the warmth of a fresh cup of tea, the comfort of a friend who calls to say hello, the coziness of a favorite chair and blanket. Take a second to acknowledge these small comforts, and give thanks for their presence in your life today. With time, you’ll find more and more moments to be grateful for, to laugh, and to enjoy yourself again.
The grieving process is different for every person, and with every loss. Don’t push yourself to “just muscle through” the stages. Instead, remind yourself of all of the steps on the road to peace, and make the emotionally healthy choices you need to take you as peacefully as possible through the journey.