I’ve provided below an explanation of the phases of grief and loss for you. This may assist you to understand the range of emotions experienced during times of loss. Everyone is different and no-one will have the same experience as the next. It is important to note, you will not simply move from one phase into the next and so on. On any given day, you may experience a range of emotions from disbelief, sadness, anger and peace. You may continue to sway from one emotion to another over a period of time. The amount of time will depend on the degree of connection to your loss.
There are no time limits on these phase. It is normal to continue to sway from one phase to another intermittently as you begin to come to terms with your loss. The degree to which you experience the grief and loss will depend on your connection to your loss.
The five stages of grief:
- Denial: It’s too painful. Resisting the sadness of the reality. This can’t be happening to me.
- Anger: Looking for someone to direct anger towards. Blaming. Feeling the pain of the loss. Why is this happening? Who is to blame?
- Bargaining: Praying things were how they were previously. Make a deal with …. Make this not happen, and in return I will e.g.: go to Mass every Sunday.
- Depression: Significant and overwhelming feeling of sadness. I’m too sad to do anything.
- Acceptance: Neither depressed nor, angry. Accepting the reality of the situation. I’m at peace with what happened.
At first, when there has been an unexpected and unwanted change in your life, you make initially be in denial the change is or has happened. This is a natural response to change, even if it is wanted. How often have you heard yourself saying, OMG, who me, really? I can’t believe it’. This is denial and is a very normal reaction to change whether planned, unplanned, expected, unexpected, wanted or unwanted.
Secondly, you may experience feelings of anger regarding the situation or experience. This too, is a normal response. How have you dealt with change and anger in previous situations? Think about it. What worked well and what inflamed the situation? What would be the consequences of your actions at this moment? Who would be affected by them? You are responsible for how you behave; you do have CHOICES on how you manage your anger.
Ahhh! Teenagers are experts at this phase. What parent has heard something similar to ‘please Mum/Dad, I’ll do all the housework and dishes for a week if you let me keep my iPhone’. And, so it begins. The bargaining phase seems to go on for several years for teenagers. Perhaps this is linked to loss of childhood. Whatever the reason, they are in a period of extreme transition/change. When have you used this bargaining exercise to avoid/prevent unwelcome change in your life?
A phase most teenagers swing in and out of depending on the outcome of the previous phase. On a serious note, sadness due to loss of a pet, job, illness, friendship, relationship, death etc. can be devastating. The intensity of the grief will directly correlate to the significance of the loss. E.g.: You lost your job. This could be both a significant loss or a less significant loss and will totally depend on the circumstances surrounding the termination of your employment, whether you enjoyed the job, your financial situation, your re-employment prospects, connection to colleagues and so on. The more connection you have to the job, the more significant the loss
For instance, I remember resigning from a job and leaving with the biggest smile on my face. The boss was a bitch and would ignore me, the environment involved continually working in crisis, there were never lunch breaks, the money was minimal for the responsibility of the job and, the resources to do the job were inadequate. However, I enjoyed the job itself and had made friends with colleagues. Resigning from this position was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Notwithstanding, I took some weeks of weighing up the pros and cons of resigning and experienced some ambivalent feelings until I made my final decision. I just knew it was the right thing to do. This was not part of my bigger picture; this was not a job taking me in the direction of my future goals. Therefore, the loss was insignificant.
Sadness in relation to a change in our situation is a normal emotional response. However, if this sadness persists and you are unable to find times when you are not sad, it would help to make an appointment with FCA or, if you are feeling suicidal, call LIFELINE on 13 11 14.
Acceptance is when you finally come to terms with the change in your life and your new circumstances. (the job was not on track to my future goal). You can begin to plan a new life (look for a new job) etc. This process may begin with imagining alternative paths from the path you were on prior to the change. IMAGINE what that looks like. How does it feel? What will you be doing differently? So, it may not be your ideal but, once you come to accept this new path in life, then you are in a position of power. You can plan and choose how to implement changes to your lifestyle to incorporate this change in circumstances. Sometimes, you just need to do it, without overthinking things. Sometimes, it just a matter of going through the motions. This may feel a little bit like, faking it, until you make it. Think for a moment, if it was your friend going through this situation, what would you encourage them to do? What would be helpful?
Now, one point I need to make clear to you is that these stages of grief and loss are a little bit like riding a rollercoaster. You will not automatically complete one phase and move from one into the other in a smooth transition. It’s more like a to and fro. One moment you may be feeling sad and another you may be angry or, coming to accept the new change in your life.
Understanding the phases of grief assist you to understanding the way you may be feeling right now. Have you recently experienced a significant life change? Perhaps it was a less significant change. Whatever the change, it is inevitable. Life is not stagnant. Life is living and breathing inside us and around us. Sometimes, you just need to get on and ride the rollercoaster of life and be prepared for the unexpected.
If you are mourning the loss of a job, a loved one, country of origin, relationship, health, pet or other, the following tips may be useful.
1. Understanding the above phases may help you recognise and normalise your feelings and emotions. This range of feelings and emotions are normal during grief and loss. Be patient with yourself. You may sway back and forth from one phase to another from time to time as you begin to gradually move through each phase. Again, let me re-iterate, there is no time frame for any given phase.
2. Friends can become uncomfortable around you when you are grieving, upset, depressed, sad, crying and attempt to make you feel better. This is about them, not you. Let them know, you appreciate their efforts but, you need to take this time to feel the emotions that arise.
3. Try not to become too annoyed when a particular friend says: ‘I know how you feel’. As ignorant as this comment is, this person is attempting to support you during your time of need. Gently tell them, they have their own experience but, they cannot know exactly how you are feeling, just as you do not know exactly what they were feeling.
4. Continue to do the things you would normally enjoy. E.g.: walking, bike riding, kick the footy. And, make sure you eat a healthy balanced diet. Sometimes people find it difficult to eat during these times, others may eat more. Ensure you eat healthy and nutritious foods to help you and nurture you. If you eat shit, you will feel like shit (you don’t want to feel worse than you already do). Plenty of water and avoid alcohol during this time.
5. Join a support group.
6. Help others. Volunteering or assisting others can help to distract
7. Set boundaries. This is not a time for overloading yourself with extra workloads or stressors in your life. Set some limits to prevent overwhelming yourself.
8. Do something every day to nurture yourself (50+ Ways to Enjoy Depression and stress LESS).
Add your tips in the comments below:
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