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30th Jan


Responses to Loss
Five Stages of Grief

IN 1969, ELIZABETH KÜBLER-ROSS, a psychiatrist, published a book titled On Death and Dying in which she presented her theory about bereavement. She explained that grief proceeds through these five stages—denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Research, though, does not show that a grieving person will go through these five stages in this sequence. Kübler-Ross herself would later note that these stages represent common experiences that one may experience, in any order, during bereavement.

No two people will grieve in the same way. It helps though to be aware of what emotions you may (or may not) encounter in response to the loss of someone you love. The states described by Kübler-Ross are states you may well experience.

When you first hear that someone you love has died, you may experience pain and shock. It is at first almost impossible to “wrap your mind around” or accept the reality of what has happened. You may feel that it simply cannot be happening. This is denial. Your mind and heart are trying to protect themselves from overwhelming emotional pain.

Sooner or later you can no longer avoid the pain. Some people then become angry. Anger is a blind emotion, lashing out irrationally at inanimate objects, at strangers, at doctors or nurses, at family and sometimes even at the person you have lost. You may feel guilty about your anger, but understand that it is a normal and common emotional reaction to pain.

Accepting The Reality of Death

For many, it is so very difficult to accept the reality of death. If you lose a loved one your mind may go back to the time when they were still here. You want to return to the way things were in the past. You may obsess about things you might have done to prevent your loved one from dying. “If only I had insisted he get a second medical opinion.” “I should have been nicer to her, so that she had less stress in her life.” You might even imagine, completely irrationally, that if you pray hard enough or promise to change your ways God will somehow bring your loved one back. Bargaining is a way in which some people try to avoid the inevitability and finality of death.

Many will experience depression in some way. To lose a loved one is, by its very nature, depressing. As the reality of the loss sinks in you may well experience symptoms typical of depression: loss of energy, difficulties sleeping and feelings of loss, emptiness and loneliness. Such reactions to loss are normal. Be aware though, that depressive feelings can in some cases lead to major depression. Do seek medical help if you feel the darkness getting out of control.

In time those who have suffered a lost may come to accept the loss for what it is. Acceptance, like all aspects of bereavement, varies from person to person. Some may never fully accept the loss. Some may come to a point where they are ready to go forward. As always be gentle with yourself. Your grief is unique to you. Don’t place expectations upon yourself. Allow yourself the freedom to find your own path in your own way and your own time through the intense and often unpredictable emotions that accompany bereavement.

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