The loss of a loved one can be one of the most difficult experiences to come to terms with. Grief can feel overwhelming. The first weeks of loss may feel too strange and scary. Giving yourself time to heal is important.
But what is equally important is to find ways to manage this grief so that we can turn our attention to those people and activities that need our help and support. Dealing with grief is important for your own healing and those depending on you.
5 Stages of Grief
Grief isn’t a single emotion that comes over us at once. We experience grief in stages. Each stage is different and affects us in unique ways. In 1969, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross outlined the stages of grief.
She stated that grief evolves in five distinct stages:
We often experience disbelief and shock when we first experience loss. We may find it incredibly hard to believe that things have suddenly taken a turn for the worse.
We may even actively avoid acknowledging that we have experienced this loss. We may even refuse to express our grief, choosing to stifle it, in the hope that ignoring the loss will not make it real.
Next, our feelings turn towards anger. We question why this happened to us or what did we do to deserve this. At this stage, we feel impotent rage towards our helplessness.
While anger may feel unhealthy, doctors agree that it is an incredibly healthy response. Expressing anger allows us to break the gates that we have put up and which block our grief from finding an outlet.
Next, grief shifts from expressing one-sided anger towards an attempt to have a conversation with others in our life, and even God. Prayers and pleas are an integral part of the bargaining stage. We wish for a happier reality.
Many times, we feel guilty and responsible for the loss we have experienced. The bargaining stage helps us acknowledge and deal with our guilt. While this can be a very hard stage, it is also cathartic.
Bargaining helps us identify what we did right and what we did wrong in the past. It allows us to unconsciously decide future steps that we can take to prevent such a loss in the future and to protect ourselves.
Depression is one of the most challenging stages of grief. The sinking realization and impact of the loss come once we have bargained with ourselves and/or our God. We may feel that we have lost everything at this stage.
At this time, we may want to spend time alone and sway from our friends and relatives. When handled right, this time allows us to reconsider our lives and find ways to start back up from scratch.
The final stage of grief is acceptance – where we come to terms with our loss. We realize there is no point in wallowing in sadness or pity. Grief can last a lifetime. We can – and should – learn to live with it.
At this stage, we try to get back to our old life. We may try to ease back into the personal, social, and professional relationships we had before. This is the stage where we need immense support to start living again.
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How to Manage Your Grief Safely
The stages of grief don’t take place one after another in a time-bound manner. By active intervention, we need to try to move from one stage of our grief to another.
Here are a few ways we can help ourselves when we are grieving:
- Acknowledge and understand that the loss was not your fault.
- Give yourself complete permission to feel grief and to cry, if needed.
- Remember that you are not alone in your grief, and others can understand if you let them into your life.
- Know that grieving is not a sign of weakness.
- Identify what triggers your grief and find ways to reduce your exposure to these triggers initially. Re-acquaint yourself with these triggers when you are in an emotionally stable space.
- Don’t isolate yourself. Spend time with your loved ones.
- Take care of your health and eat well. Certain foods like dark chocolate, mushroom, chicken, etc., have ingredients that release endorphins, which are happy hormones.
- Try journaling how you feel and don’t hold anything back.
- Try exercises like kickboxing, jump rope, running, etc., since they offer a healthy outlet to express anger and grief.
- Pursue your hobby. Listen to music you love or read books by authors you enjoy.
- Speak to a qualified therapist to find healthy ways to cope with loss and grief.
- Remind yourself that life goes on and it is okay for you to move past the loss. It doesn’t make you a bad person.
Gentle Ways to Help Others Who Are Grieving
If you know someone who is grieving after a loss, implement these tips to help them cope with their grief:
- Be proactive and reach out to them, offering your support.
- Listen to what they say. You can offer them solace by just being a good listener.
- Allow the person to grieve their way – there is no right or wrong way to express sadness.
- Don’t be upset or angry at their outbursts and mood swings. Give them the freedom to express whatever they are feeling.
- Show your love through practical things that bring comfort – such as cooking their meals, running errands, cleaning their house, paying the bills, etc.
- Don’t try to give the loss a positive spin and don’t trivialize the loss. For example, don’t say, “At least this wasn’t as bad as what John faced” or “Let’s be happy that she’s in a better place now.”
- Avoid offering unsolicited advice.
- Always be available if they want to connect. Let the person who is grieving decide how they want to interact with you.
- Send them a small reminder of your love every day, such as a good morning message or an “I love you” or “Call me if you need anything.”
- Offer to connect them with people or groups who may be going through something similar.
- Help them figure out their finances, insurance, and other material/will related issues by finding a qualified professional who can help.
- even if lots of time has passed.
Loss is an understood part of life, but that doesn’t make it any easier when you go through it. Everyone reacts differently to death and each has their own personal coping mechanisms. Over time, your pain will subside and be replaced with happy memories. Life may never feel quite the same, but you will be able to continue on and embrace life in a new way after the death of a loved one. Never be afraid to ask for help.
About the writer
Quotacy is the country’s leading broker for buying life insurance online. We are obsessed with making it easy for everyone who has loved ones who depend upon them to have life insurance.