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Understand the 7 Stages of Grief to Cope With Pain and Distress

7 Stages of Grief
Grief is often caused by the loss or death of a loved one, which can be at times stressful and exhausting. Try living each day at a time which will slowly help you adjust to the new reality of your life. Similarly, don't force yourself to cope with mourning or loss just because you need your life back on track. Be patient with yourself and let yourself heal gently.
Aarti R
Last Updated: Mar 19, 2018
Upset stomach and severe headache are experienced by person in grief
Grief is not an illness though it may lead to symptoms of illness. Upset stomach and severe headache are some of the effects experienced by a person in grief. People who are in grief cry a lot and they experience loss of appetite. The sleeping pattern is disturbed and it leads to a weak immune system due to the stress involved in coping with it.
Grieving time depends on the nature of loss experienced and differs from person to person. There is no fixed amount of time for grieving. Kubler-Ross model of the 7 stages of grief was introduced in the book On Death and Dying written by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross.
This theory has been refuted by many authors who claim that these stages do not justly explain the process of grief. They believe grief is too complicated to be defined by just seven neat little stages. For most people, it is an engulfing flurry of varied emotions. There is no scientific backup or public consensus which supports that two people will go through the same types of stages while mourning for their loved ones.
Seven Steps of Grief
Shock and Denial
image shows woman in shock and in grief, but having difficulty in accepting
In this stage, the person suffers from shock on knowing about the loss. Shock is a self defense stage of the mind and the outcome of it, many times, is denial of the facts that have actually happened. A person in grief thinks that he is dreaming and he refuses to accept the grief causing situation. The time for which this stage lasts cannot be determined. Simple tasks and decisions cannot be carried out by a person in shock.
Pain and Guilt
deep in heart there are feelings of guilt and pain
At this stage, the grieving person realizes that the loss that has happened is true. This is the most chaotic and scary stage of grief. Many people succumb to alcohol and drugs at this stage. Intense feelings of guilt and compunction are experienced due to the wrong things done which led to this irreversible loss. Sometimes, in grief, people blame themselves and consider themselves responsible for the loss.
woman experiencing anger due to her grief
In this stage, the person may get angry due to the injustice that has happened to him or he may get angry over a person responsible for the loss in his life. Anger management is necessary at this stage of grief.
man frustrated over his loss and blaming others is a way to not accept reality
In this stage, person in grief gets frustrated and may start blaming others for the loss. Although this blame is not correct, he is not in a state to understand and accept the reality. The person starts bargaining for the loss and tries to find out ways in which he can revert the situation and compensate for what he has lost. This stage is called bargaining.
Depression and Sorrow
not able to cope with grief leads to depression and sorrow
In this stage, the person accepts the loss but is unable to cope up with it. Depressed and demoralized, the person is in despair and behaves passively. He sees no remedy to the loss he suffered and is reluctant to behave in a normal way and thus goes into a state of depression.
Testing and Reconstruction
This is the testing stage in which the depressed person starts to indulge in other activities so as to escape the disturbing sorrow. In fact, this is the beginning of the next and last stage, that is, acceptance of and coming to terms with the reality. It is also a stage of reconstruction as in this stage, he starts the process reconstruction of his life by searching for solutions and ways to come out of his grief.
This is the stage when the grieving person accepts the reality. Acceptance stage projects a ray of hope and the person starts believing in himself. Reality and facts of life are accepted and the person moves forward with this life. This stage can be noticed when the person starts behaving normally and his performance in the office is quite improved. The grieving person starts to mingle with friends and colleagues around him.
Coping with Grief
Losing someone you cared about or something that was primal to your existence can be overwhelming and it naturally results in grief. Even though the process of grief is very subjective and everyone tries to deal with bereavement in his/her own way, understanding these stages will help you in working out your way through emotional pain.
There is no right or wrong method to come to terms with loss. In the end, you have to find your own way to overcome the feelings of extreme sorrow, emotional numbness, life-wrecking anger, misplaced guilt, etc.
Take Your Time
Dealing with loss requires time. The loss can be anything from the death of a loved one to a relationship breakup. People who have lost their job, financial stability or suffered health issues due to illness and accidents also find it difficult to cope with the loss of their former lifestyle. Whatever is the cause of your emotional pain, you need to go through the full term of grief process to deal it in a mature way.
Don't Take Life-Altering Decisions
During this time, you are at a vulnerable stage. Hence, taking a decision that can impact your whole life and even others should be postponed until the time when you are confident that your grief is not affecting your decision.
Sharing Helps
As cliché it may sound, the fact is talking about your loss and feelings play a major role in speedy recovery from emotional pain. Being bottled up can harbor resentment towards what has happened and will prevent you from moving on. That's why, find a confidant or friend who will listen to you and lend you a shoulder to cry on.
You don't need to be alone in such situation. It's okay to cry in front of people. Your friends and loved ones understand your feelings and will be there for you if you let them. While grieving, it's easy to let the feeling of hopelessness overpower your thoughts and actions. To avoid such situation, seek the company of pleasant people. Their positive energy will rub off on you.
Taking Care of Yourself
Grief impacts both your mind and body. Loss of appetite is a common occurrence during any mourning period. However, you cannot let this continue as it will drastically affect your health. Take your mind off your emotions by indulging in practical things like eating healthy food, taking a hot bath or taking care of your child/dependent.
This might not be easy but there is no other way to maintain a semblance of order in your life. Exercise positive control over your life in little meaningful ways during this difficult time. Read books, go for a walk or do anything that will help you refresh mentally. You need will power to do all these activities and don't worry, you will get there in due time.
Reach Out to Professional Help
activity center
join support group
Some people take refuge in the fact that they are not the only ones. You can also join a support group which will help you cope and be there for you through thick and thin. This road to recovery from grief might seem lonely and full of bumps to you. But remember, there are going to be both bad days and not-so-bad days. The important thing is going through the bad ones without many hiccups and thoroughly enjoying the good ones.