What are the 7 Stages of Grief?
The death of a loved one is devastating. You will likely experience unfamiliar emotions that are tough to manage, and you might not comprehend why you feel the way you do. Understanding the stages that accompany this journey can help you navigate life after loss and see the light in the darkness.
Stage 1: Shock
The initial stage of grief can be a bewildering experience. It’s common to feel stunned, like you’re living in an alternate dimension and unable to comprehend what happened. This stage shields you from despair, allowing you to gradually come to terms with reality and mourn in your own time.
Stage 2: Denial
As the shock subsides, you may say, “This can’t be happening!” while you carry on with your normal activities. It’s not uncommon to purposely make yourself busy by picking up extra shifts at work or constantly doing favors for friends. You might tell yourself and others that you’re “fine” or feel as though your loved one will walk through the door any day.
Stage 3: Anger
During the third stage, anger often comes to the forefront. You might feel mad at the world, at your loved one for leaving, or even at yourself because you believe you could have somehow prevented the death. These emotions express your pain and the sense of helplessness while you mourn.
Stage 4: Bargaining
After your anger fades away, you may find yourself using “If only” and “What if” at the beginning of many sentences. “If only I had been with him that night, he would still be here,” for example. When we mourn, it’s also common to make drastic changes or promises in an attempt to compensate for the death. Perhaps you vow to change your ways in their honor or accomplish things they never got to do. This is a sign of the deep love you have for your lost one and the helplessness you feel without them.
Stage 5: Depression
Depression can be overwhelming during the fourth stage of grief. You will likely feel the weight of your profound loss along with deep sadness, hopelessness, and isolation – this is perhaps the most challenging stage of grief, and it’s crucial to remember that it’s a natural part of the healing process. You can overcome this mourning stage by leaning on your friends and family with honesty and vulnerability. Ask for help when you need it, seek support groups for people who have experienced similar losses, and consider speaking with a mental health professional. You will get through this.
Stage 6: Testing
This stage marks a turning point in the grief process. It’s when you start to see a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. You’ll begin to work through your grief actively by experimenting with new ways of living without your loved one, and trying to find a new sense of normalcy. It’s a time of self-reflection, soul-searching, and gradual adaptation, where you begin to see that moving forward is possible.
Stage 7: Acceptance
The acceptance stage of grief signifies that you’ve come to terms with the reality of your loss and found a sense of peace. It’s not about forgetting your loved one but recognizing that their memory will always be a part of your life. In this stage, you discover hope and meaning in your life again, and you hold onto their spirit as a source of inspiration and love. It’s a point of healing and renewal where you’ve made significant progress in your grief journey.