When we are in a state of loss, we feel an overwhelming sense of emotion that can be difficult to understand. This emotion is grief, which couldn't be a more natural response to losing someone or something important to us. During this state you may feel a variety of emotions, such as sadness or loneliness, though everyone’s grieving process looks a bit different.
But while we're wired to grieve our losses, we're also designed to heal from them, if we know how. Those ways include understanding our emotions, take care of ourselves, and seeking support from friends, family, and possibly also grief therapy.
As we grieve, our feelings may occur in phases as we process the experience of our loss. We can’t control this process, nor should be try, but it can be extremely helpful to know the reasons behind our feelings. The concept of stages of grief can be a helpful way to understand what's happening with us, though it's important to remember that stages of grief do not occur in any order, and we can easily move from one stage to another multiple times throughout our grieving process. These stages are:
The Stages of Grief
Denial: When we first learn of a loss, and sometimes at various points throughout our grieving process, it’s normal to think, “This can’t be happening.” We may feel shocked or numb. This is our mind’s defense mechanism to help process the rush of overwhelming emotion.
Anger: We often experience intense anger as we're faced with the pain of our losses. Our understandable feelings of frustrating and helpless can easily manifest as anger. Intense emotions brought about by the situation might be directed toward other people or to life in general, perhaps evening showing up as feelings of anger toward a loved one who has died. This response too is quite natural for those experiencing intense grief.
Bargaining: In this stage we can find ourselves dwelling on thoughts of what we could have done to prevent such an outcome. Common thoughts are “If only…” and “What if…” We can feel desperate, looking to others for solutions. You may also try to strike a deal with a higher power that would negate the loss, or at least the pain of it.
Depression: If we struggle with fully accepting and feeling the emotions of our loss and its effects, a period of depression can set it. Signs of depression include sleep disturbance, decreased or increased appetite, difficulty concentrating, or turning away from social supports. A depressed state can also leave us feeling overwhelmed, regretful, and lonely.
Acceptance: What is often mistaken as the "final" stage of grief is what we call acceptance, during which we come to terms with reality - that our loss really has truly occurred and cannot be undone. We start to move forward with our lives even though we likely still feel quite sad, with each day getting just a bit better as we learn to cope. But it's important to remember that it is completely normal to find ourselves in acceptance one day but struggling to accept the loss during others.
There is also what is often called the 6th stage of grief, which is meaning making, which involves making sense of and coming to understand the loss or losses in a different way, finding benefit or positives that arise from the changes that inevitably occur when we experience loss.
Every person goes through these phases in their own way, and whatever path of grief we find ourselves on is completely normal, natural, and okay. People will experience each of these stages at different points in their grieving process, or they may even skip some stages. Any and all of this is to be expected.
With grief and loss, we often long for the end of our emotional suffering, where we no longer feel the exhausting feelings that come with it. Grief can feel like a never-ending road that we cannot divert from. We can receive pressure from society, as others believe that we should be over the grieving process at a certain point. But there’s simply no “normal” amount of time to grieve. We are all different in how we process our emotions. Our particular grieving process depends on a number of things, including our personality, biology, childhoods, age, beliefs, and support networks.
Grief Therapy in Seattle
The grieving process is often complex, confusing, and daunting, among other things. Grief counseling absolutely helps, so please reach out to me, Hanna Kokko, if you'd like me to hold your hand through the struggle. I do grief therapy in Seattle for individuals dealing with all types of grief and loss and can most likely find a spot for you in my schedule. Please let me know if I can help.