What is grief?
When grieving due to a loss or bereavement there are considered to be 5 stages

In this document I am simply outlining what my experience of grieving for a loved one has meant to me. Grieving is a very personal experience for everyone. No one human can or should tell you how to grieve. That is not the intent here. I hope this will help you identify what you are feeling. Also it is to let you know you are not alone with how you are feeling. I found it very helpful to have caring people around me to help me. At some time in life we all feel loss and must find a way to cope with it.



In the denial stage we refuse to believe what has happened. We try in our mind to tell ourselves that life is as it was before our loss. We can even make believe to an extent by re enacting rituals that we used to go through with our loved one. Making an extra cup of tea for our loved one who is no longer there, rushing back to tell someone that you have met an old friend. Flashing back to times and conversations in the past as though they we here with us now. They can all be part of this stage.



We get angry. The anger can manifest itself in many ways. We can blame others for our loss. We can become easily agitated having emotional outbursts. We can even become angry with ourselves. Care must be taken here not to turn this anger inwards. Release of this anger is a far better way to cope with grief in my experience.



Bargaining can be with ourselves or if you are religious with your god. Often we will offer something to try to take away the reality of what has happened. We may try to make a deal, to have our loved one back as they were before the tragic event occured. It is only human to want thing as they were before.



Depression is a very likely outcome for all people that grieve for a loss. This is what I would consider the most difficult stage of the five to deal with. There can be a the feeling listlessness and tiredness. You may be bursting helplessly into tears. Feeling like there is no purpose to life any more. Feeling guilty, like everything is your own fault. You may find you feel like you are being punished. Pleasure and joy can be difficult to achieve even from things and activities which you have always gained delight. There can even be thoughts of suicide. There are many different ways in which this stage of grief can manifest itself. If you at any time in this stage feel like doing yourself any harm please do seek professional counseling. Self preservation is a must.



The final stage of grief. It is when you realize that life has to go on. You can here accept your loss. You should now be able to regain your energy and goals for the future. It may take some time to get here but you will.





Bereavement if there is a death:

What is bereavement?

Bereavement means, literally, to be deprived by death. After someone close to you dies, you go through a process of mourning. Grief is the visible sign of that mourning and encompasses a wide range of physical and emotional symptoms that you experience after a loss.

Bereavement is not restricted to people who have lost someone they have known for a long time. It is also experienced by people who have had stillbirths, miscarriages or lost a young baby.

Is it normal to grieve?

Grief is vital in order to accept a deep loss and carry on with your life. If you do not grieve at the time of death, or shortly after, you may keep the grief bottled up inside you. This may cause emotional problems or physical illness later on. Working through your grief can be a painful process, but it makes all the difference to your future emotional and physical well-being.

What are the stages of grief?

There is no single way to grieve. Everyone is different and each person grieves in his or her own way. However, some stages of grief are commonly experienced by people when they are bereaved. It can be helpful to be aware of these stages and remember that intense emotions and swift changes in mood are normal.

  • Feeling emotionally numb is usually the first reaction to a loss, and perhaps lasts for a few hours or days. In some ways, this numbness may help you get through the practical arrangements and family pressures that surround the funeral, but if this phase goes on for too long, it could be a problem.
  • The numbness may be replaced by a deep yearning for the person who has died. You may feel agitated or angry, and find it difficult to concentrate, relax or sleep. You may also feel guilty, dwelling on arguments you may have had with the dead person or on emotions and words you wished you had expressed.
  • This period of strong, often volatile emotions usually gives way to bouts of depression, sadness, silence and withdrawal from family and friends. During this time, you may be prone to sudden outbursts of tears, set off by reminders and memories of the dead person.
  • Over time, the pain, sadness and depression starts to lessen. You begin to see your life in a more positive light again, although, it is important to acknowledge that you may not completely overcome the feeling of loss
  • The final phase of grieving is to let go of the person who has died and move on with your life. This helps any lingering depression to clear, and your sleeping patterns and energy levels return to normal.
The grieving process

Do children grieve in the same way as adults do?

Contrary to what many people think, children are aware when a loved one dies and they feel that loss in much the same way as adults do. Children go through similar stages of grief, although they may progress through them more quickly. Some people make the mistake of trying to protect children from the death and grieving process. Instead, it is better to be honest with children about your own grief, and encourage them to discuss their feelings of pain and distress.

How long does the grieving process take?

The grieving process takes time and should not be hurried. How long it takes depends on you and your situation. In general, though, it takes most people one to two years to recover from a major bereavement.

How can you cope during that process?

There are many things you can do to help yourself cope during this time. Ask for help and support from family, friends or a support group, and try to express whatever you are feeling, be it anger, guilt or sadness. Accept that some things, like death, are beyond your control. Avoid making major decisions - your judgement may be off kilter and changes could increase your stress levels. Give yourself the time and space to grieve. By doing so, you are able to mourn properly and avoid problems in the future.

Remember to keep in touch with your doctor. If you are having sleeping problems, your doctor may prescribe sleeping tablets or may refer you to a therapist if you feel the need for more help to cope with a loss.

How can you help a family member or friend who is grieving?

The best thing you can do is spend time with that person, and listen to them work through their grief. Avoid saying phrases like 'with time, you'll get over this'. This is false comfort and denies the person their need to mourn properly. Offer practical help, such as cooking dinner or shopping for food - when a person is grieving, it is usually hard to focus on everyday tasks. Finally, if the person is reacting in extreme ways for a prolonged period, encourage him or her to seek professional help.

A change of circumstance of any kind (a change from one state to another) produces a loss of some kind (the stage changed from) which will produce a grief reaction.

The intensity of the grief reaction is a function of how the change-produced loss is perceived. If the loss is not perceived as significant, the grief reaction will be minimal or barely felt.

Significant grief responses which go unresolved can lead to mental, physical, and sociological problems and contribute to family dysfunction across generations.
So, are the 5 Stages without value? Not if they are used as originally intended, as The 5 Stages of Receiving Catastrophic News. One can even extrapolate to The 5 Stages of Coping With Trauma. Death need not be involved.

As an example, apply the 5 stages to a traumatic event most all of us have experienced: The Dead Battery! You're going to be late to work so you rush out to your car, place the key in the ignition and turn it on. You hear nothing but a grind; the battery is dead.

DENIAL --- What's the first thing you do? You try to start it again! And again. You may check to make sure the radio, heater, lights, etc. are off and then..., try again.

ANGER --- "%$@^##& car!", "I should have junked you years ago." Did you slam your hand on the steering wheel? I have. "I should just leave you out in the rain and let you rust."

BARGAINING --- (realizing that you're going to be late for work)..., "Oh please car, if you will just start one more time I promise I'll buy you a brand new battery, get a tune up, new tires, belts and hoses, and keep you in perfect working condition.

DEPRESSION --- "Oh God, what am I going to do. I'm going to be late for work. I give up. My job is at risk and I don't really care any more. What's the use".

ACCEPTANCE --- "Ok. It's dead. Guess I had better call the Auto Club or find another way to work. Time to get on with my day; I'll deal with this later."
This is not a trivial example. In fact, we all go through this process numerous times a day. A dead battery, the loss of a parking space, a wrong number, the loss of a pet, a job, a move to another city, an overdrawn bank account, etc. Things to remember are:

Any Change Of Circumstance can cause us to go through this process.

We don't have to go through the stages in sequence. We can skip a stage or go through two or three simultaneously.

We can go through them in different time phases. The dead battery could take maybe 5 to 10 minutes, the loss of a parking space 5 to 10 seconds. A traumatic event which involves the Criminal Justice System can take years.

The intensity and duration of the reaction depends on how significant the change-produced loss is perceived.
It was mentioned above that Grieving only begins where the 5 Stages of "Grief" leave off. Grief professionals often use the concept of "Grief Work" to help the bereaved through grief resolution. One common definition of Grief Work is summarized by the acronym TEAR:

T = To accept the reality of the loss
E = Experience the pain of the loss
A = Adjust to the new environment without the lost object
R = Reinvest in the new reality

This is Grief Work. It begins when the honeymoon period is over, the friends have stopped calling, everyone thinks you should be over it, the court case is resolved, "closure" has been effected, and everything is supposed to be back to normal. It's at this point that real grieving begins.

Notice that the first step of Grief Work is ACCEPTANCE, the last stage of the 5 Stages of Grief. Let's throw out the 5 stages of grief and replace it with a greater understanding of Grief Recognition and Resolution.