The 7 Stages of Grieving and Their Effects

The 7 Stages of Grieving and Their Effects
October 22, 2020

When you are in sorrow due to a particular loss, you face a hard time expressing your grief. The difficulty may be because you do not know how to express yourself or talk about your feelings.

Grief can occur in various forms, and it arises from many causes. A few of the causes could be losing a job, being diagnosed with a threatening illness, losing a loved one, and a relationship break-up.

The way people respond to losing someone or something differs significantly. One crucial fact to keep in mind is that whatever the experience, your actions are okay. Most of the time, people associate grief with losing a close person. But as mentioned, there are various reasons for grief.

The 7 Grieving Stages

Most individuals are familiar with the 5 stages of loss, otherwise known as the Kubler-Ross theory. It postulates that a person experiencing grief undergoes a series of five emotions. However, studies have not empirically verified the existence of the five stages, and thus the model is considered inaccurate and outdated.

Therefore, the seven-stage model is gaining acceptance increasingly since it is viewed as more comprehensive. Below is a highlight of all the 7 stages.

Shock and Disbelief

Shock is a natural reaction upon finding out about a loss, particularly if it comes as a bombshell. An individual might find it hard to believe the news they’ve received. Shock is a defense mechanism aimed at avoiding pain. It prevents the individual from becoming too overwhelmed with the news. When in this stage, people experience many emotions, including exhibiting physical reactions. These might range from dizziness to nausea.

Later on, it begins to sink that they lost someone they love or no longer have job security. This further results in a host of other emotions and feelings. Some individuals have admitted to feeling as if they were out of their body.

Attempting to understand a loss/disappointment is extremely challenging. There is no specific timeframe for the length of time the process should take. One crucial step to take is to allow yourself some time to heal. Regardless of whether you broke up with your significant other or experienced the death of a close person recently, you need to stay grounded.

Denial

In terms of grief, this stage is not similar to the ordinary definition of denial. It doesn’t suggest that the individual disputes the occurrence of the loss. Denial, in this case, is how your emotions get revealed. Some people deny that they have broken up from their relationship.

Others deny the fact that they are experiencing a difficult time or even grossly affected by the event. Just like in the other stages, denial can manifest in different ways.

They include:

  • Refusing to believe that the situation has happened.
  • Disposing items that serve as reminders of the circumstance that you are in
  • Keeping yourself busy to run away from your grief
  • Abusing drugs to block out the pain that results from the loss

In a way, this stage can be thought of as the tip of the iceberg. There could be a host of other things under the surface. However, you cannot realize or acknowledge them at that particular moment. The denial stage can last for an extended period until you feel strong enough to progress further along the stages.

Denial can also arise from poor understanding. As a result, there are some actions you could take to align yourself with a sad reality. One good method is to journal your journey through grief as it might help you make sense of loss. Making supportive connections could go a long way in restoring some kind of order.

Guilt

Guilt can arise from regrets about any unfinished business or something one wished to tell their lover whom they broke up with. It is caused by the desire to travel back in time and undertake some actions all over again.

You might even think that what happened was your fault. Furthermore, your mind will find it difficult to differentiate between logical and illogical feelings as you try to make sense of everything that is happening. Your life might feel considerably scary and chaotic. However, the key to recovering from this state is to try and let go. What’s more, you can hire a grief coach to help you open up and share your experience.

Bargaining and Anger

Anger often occurs during grief. After a loss, your disbelief can quickly transform into anger and frustration. Many people ask themselves why a particular thing happened to them. You might also feel angry towards yourself for not being there to avert the condition or even blame the person for causing it. Moreover, one can direct anger towards a third party who has nothing to do with the loss.

Bargaining occurs when one keeps wondering what would have been if another thing happened. It is usually common for people to bargain and find ways to spin the narrative. To overcome anger, you can bargain with the powers that be to heal.

It is also healthy to confront the situation that makes you angry to make you gain more power over the issue. Do not be hard on yourself as you do. Self-awareness is equally important here as well. It is imperative to seek out help to avoid damaging existing relationships and developing low self-esteem.

Loneliness, Depression, Reflection

At this point, you get in a position to accept the loss but still unable to cope. Among the most challenging things when grieving is feeling alone in a sad situation. Nevertheless, feelings of depression can be accompanied by loneliness. You begin to perceive the loss, and depressive feelings can recur during this stage. The feeling of wanting to have complete isolation or becoming overwhelmed by emotions is a normal occurrence here.

Reflecting on what has past is the opening step towards acceptance. So, do not feel discouraged as the process will aid you in opening up to the loss.

Another thing to avoid is sitting back in grief. Try to keep yourself active through partaking in a hobby or even physical exercise. You can also go for hikes or hang out with friends. Setting objectives and going out of the house can assist you in looking at life from an optimistic perspective.

Reconstruction

As more time passes by, you slowly regain your functionality. Nevertheless, it doesn’t imply that anger, depression, sadness, guilt, or any other emotion will completely subside. Reconstruction is the time to begin looking at everything with a clear mind. You will start to figure out how to continue with your regular life once again at this point.

You can begin to evaluate ways in which you can move on beyond these grieving stages. You might start working on practical or financial issues to return to normalcy. Of course, sadness and heartbreak might still be present. However, you will be better equipped to advance to the final step, acceptance.

Acceptance

It is the last stage whereby one can accept and live with the loss. But it doesn’t imply that you will ultimately get over it. The good thing is that you will begin to feel alright once again. The acceptance stage comes with the ability to revisit the loss, talk about it, or even bear it in your mind without intense emotions or pain.

Such a feeling is filled with hope for the future. Yes, your life might never be the same again, but your life will go on. It is possible to attain happiness and peace as you come to terms with the complicated process.

How to Obtain Help and Why It’s Crucial

When grieving, you can acquire help from online therapists or traditional counselors. Grief counseling offers support during this hard time. It is a form of therapy that helps you explore and process confusing and distressing feelings. If you are grieving alone, counseling sessions can validate your feelings to provide a non-judgmental and safe space to express your emotions.

A professional therapist will determine the best approach to therapy that will give the tools you require to deal with your grief process. In particular, counseling will help you identify behaviors and strategies to manage the circumstance and re-engage in daily duties.

Therapists are trained and well-educated regarding managing sorrow. They understand the different feelings that you may experience and can offer coping skills to manage the emotions. Everyone is unique in how they feel when grieving. Thus, having a professional to give you customized strategies for your specific situation will assist you in overcoming a similar one.

The Takeaway

There is no definite formula on how you should go through grief. A person could be in the phase for weeks, whereas you experienced it only for a day or two. It is also possible to skip the bargaining stage.

You don’t have to ensure that people undergo the first and fifth stages in order. Different individuals might react differently. For this reason, everybody needs adequate time to cope with the loss.

But remember the following:

  • The way people respond to losing something or someone differs significantly
  • Undergoing all the grieving stages will assist you in finding inner peace
  • Grieving all alone can be extremely daunting, and by seeking help, you will be able to make a big difference in your life

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Kate Skurat

Kate Skurat

Licensed Mental Health Counselor

Washington, United States

Kate has a B.S. in Psychology and M.A. in Clinical Psychology from Pepperdine University and has worked in healthcare since 2017. She primarily treated depression, anxiety, eating disorders, trauma, and grief, as well as identity, relationship and adjustment issues. Her clinical experience has focused on individual and group counseling, emergency counseling and outreach. Read more.

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