The Grieving Process
The National Mental Health Association reports that last year 8 million Americans suffered through the death of someone in their immediate family. Add to that millions more who have experienced some other significant loss—the end of a relationship, loss of a job, loss of a pet—and you realize that on any given day, there are many millions of people experiencing some part of the grieving process. So many of us experience it, yet it can still feel very isolating and hard to understand.
In 1969, psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross introduced the idea of five stages of grief in her 1969 book, “On Death and Dying.” Her idea became so popular that many people feel like their grief will, or must, follow certain steps. But grief isn’t a linear process. Instead, the stages are just a way to understand what you are feeling at any given time. Everyone experiences grief in their own way, and we can’t simply push ourselves through the stages to reach healing. Taking time with grief is the best way to cope with loss.
Stages of grief
The stages of grief describe kinds of feelings, not steps to overcoming grief. Experiencing all of these kinds of feelings—whenever and however we do it—is all part of the healing process.
Denial and isolation
When we are experiencing these feelings, the dominant thought is, “This isn’t really happening.” A grieving person may also simply feel numb, which can be confused with not caring. We may isolate because the world feels meaningless and overwhelming after a loss.
Overwhelmed by emotions, we may express them as anger. When grief is triggered by death, sometimes, we may even be angry at the person who died. We may also be angry at ourselves, or angry at God.
This stage is all about feelings of “What if…” and “If only…” which can contribute to feelings of guilt—things we think we could have done to prevent our loss. We may also try to bargain our way out of the pain of grief, promising to do or be a certain way to get through it sooner.
Depression after a loss is normal—not a sign of mental illness. We tend to think of depression as something we need to “get over,” but feeling depression is a part of the healing process. In fact, it would be abnormal to not be depressed after a loss.
When we have accepted a loss, we have learned to live with it, but that doesn’t mean we no longer feel sadness about it. Acceptance is about finding a way to move forward—to begin to have happy days, good feelings or new relationships, even while our loss remains a part of us.
How Crosswinds can help
Therapy during the grieving process can be immensely helpful. We may worry that what we’re feeling isn’t normal or that we aren’t “getting over” our grief quickly enough. Crosswinds counselors are trained to help clients through the entire grieving process, working with individuals and families to cope with loss and find comfort and spiritual healing. We work with clients to help them understand that they can survive their loss and learn to live with it, by taking their time through every part of their own grieving process.
If you or someone you care about needs help coping with grieving, please contact Crosswinds.