Grief and loss are challenges that most people have to face in their lifetime. Grief comes when we lose someone or something dear to us. Losses may include the death of loved one, loss of a relationship, loss of a pet. It can also include experiences in life such as the loss of a job, home, or health. Each person responds differently to grief. Some people memorialize the loss of a loved one, some people become activists to assist other with grief, and other find spiritual meaning and purpose through loss. Most experiences of grief will include the grief stages:
- Denial: A stage of shock that protects the individual from the intensity of overwhelming emotions. Shock may help an individual make decision that seem trivial or painful like preparing a funeral. Many people look back on a period of shock with disbelief down the road. They look at the tasks they completed and reflect that they were simply on autopilot.
- Bargaining: This stage involves wondering what could have been done differently to change or fix or avoid the death or loss. People in this stage often feel guilt and shame and obsessive thoughts. For some “if only’s” occur continually throughout the day during normal tasks.
- Sadness and Depression: Sadness and depression can occur when the person grieving realizes the extent of the loss. Life seems empty and hopeless. Home life and activities are interpreted based on the deficit of a missing loved one or thing. Crying and loss of pleasure in normal activities is common.
- Anger: Anger commonly occurs when a person feels powerless. They may direct the anger at the deceased for abandoning them. Anger may also be directed at God or toward people in general for not understanding.
- Acceptance: An individual may come to terms with their loss in time. They may feel a sense of acceptance for life and the inability to control. Feelings of contentment, understanding, and empathy are common.
All stages of grief can return throughout one’s lifetime. Even though they are referred to as stages they are not linear. They can weave back and forth as a person is grieving.
The role of counseling is to help the individual continue forward with their grief. Everyone’s grief is different and that is okay. If an individual becomes stuck at any stage, the counselor helps them identify the reasons help them move forward. In addition to counseling, local groups for grief are recommended.