Grieving the loss of a loved one is easily the biggest emotional challenge we face in our lives. Regardless of whether the person we lost suffered from a long illness, and his or her passing was anticipated, or if the loss was sudden, the grieving process can be an extremely difficult path to navigate. If we don’t know what to expect, it can make the grief and mourning journey all the more difficult.
Grief and Mourning – The Grieving Process
We each grieve and mourn (how we grieve publicly) in our own way, based on a number of factors, including the following:
- The type of relationship we had with the deceased
- The circumstances surrounding their death
- Our own life experiences and coping skills
- The amount of support we have
- Our social and financial position
- Our cultural and religious background
Regardless of how differently we grieve and mourn, however, there are some steps in the grieving process that are fairly universal. When you know a little more about what to expect as you work your way through the grief, it can be a little easier to bear. During all of the stages, a feeling of depression can take hold. This is completely natural, and shouldn’t be feared.
Numbness and Disbelief
The loss of a loved one, particularly if the death is sudden, is the most profound kind of loss we can experience. We naturally have a difficult time comprehending such profound and sudden loss and, as a result, we may initially feel physical and emotional numbness. This is a coping mechanism intended to give us time to process what has happened and will eventually lead us to the next stage, which is emotions.
Once the shock of the loss has worn off, we are left to deal with the emotions surrounding it. We may feel rage and anger, or just deep sadness. This is always the step in the grieving process that leaves us feeling the most uneasy. If you find yourself unable to move through anger or feelings of depression, or if you feel despondent, contact a counselor, clergyman, or close friend or family member right away. There are healthy ways to work through your grief.
We want life to be back to the way it was before the loss, so we begin to spend energy thinking about the “what if’s…” of the situation. During the bargaining stage, we are focused on the past because it may still seem too painful to move forward. Eventually, the bargaining stage may move toward a feeling of hope that one day we will see our loved one again. However, it is during this stage that depression can also be the strongest, so if you feel that you can’t control the severity of your emotions, seek help.
When we accept the loss, it means that we are trying to move forward. It doesn’t mean everything is now okay and we’ve gotten over it. Nor does acceptance mean that we are no longer saddened by the loss. This can be especially true on important dates, like anniversaries, birthdays, and holidays.
Sometimes the stage of acceptance finds us withdrawing in an effort to begin rebuilding our lives after the loss. Acceptance is the stage where we find ourselves moving forward.
Some people never reach this stage and, if you find yourself in that position, consider joining a support group, consulting a clergyman or counselor, or confiding in a close friend or family member.
See Stages of Grief