Grief: A Process not an Event

maftab92 By maftab92, 1st Jul 2010 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Health>Mind & Spirit>Mental Health

Grief is a very strong emotion and a natural reaction to loss caused by a major life change. There are no quick fixes to grieve. Grief never really goes away, but the impact of loss lessens over time.

Self Help

Grief is a normal reaction to death of a loved one, loss of something important in a person's life. A few other examples of loss include the end of an important relationship, job loss, loss of a pet or the loss of a body part causing disability.

If you are standing on a river side and you throw a stone in water, you will see ripples spreading away and finally coming back and settling down. Throwing stone is an event and occurrence of ripples is a process. Same is in case of grief reaction: loss is an event whereas experiencing painful feelings and emotions is a process. In the process of grief, a person goes through five stages. People go through these stages when they experience any loss but loss of a loved one will cause severe grief reaction and it will take longer time to recover depending on individual differences.

1- Shock stage

Shock is the first reaction followed by the loss of a loved one. This initially may appear as if there is no reaction at all to the news. The person may seem to be numb and totally mute. There may be physical reactions such as paling of the skin, shortness of breath, cold hands and feet. This stage is also known as shock absorber as it is a natural way to help prevent the person going into severe trauma. The person remains in a state of shock for a few seconds to a few minutes.

2- Denial stage

The next stage is denial - a stage of disbelief. The person will behave as if nothing has happened or the news might be wrong. He must be thinking “it can’t happen to me” or “the news must be wrong”. Despite having all the evidence, he will refuse to accept the fact.

3- Anger stage

Next stage is anger where the bottled-up feelings of the previous stages are expressed in form of blaming and it may involve self blaming or blaming others -“why me”, “why did it happen to me”, “why didn’t others take care to avoid the loss” are a few common phrases used in this stage by the grieved person during bereavement.

4- Bargaining stage

The next stage is a stage of desperation called bargaining. In this stage the grieved person will be thinking of the ways, which could help avoid having the bad thing happen. This stage is a stage of false hope that the bad news is reversible. The grieved person will be using phrases like “if only I could do this”, “if I could be there”, “if I had done something different”.

5- Depression stage

After going through different stages, finally the news sinks in and the grieved person will reluctantly accept the fact. This stage will cause him to experience depression. In this deep depression everything seems to be gloomy. Depression may be seen in a number of passive behaviors like physical absenteeism, lack of concentration, emptiness and lack of interest in self and life. It can also appear in tearful and weeping episodes where the grieved person's main focus is on his own world.

6- Acceptance stage

The final stage is acceptance of the loss and the grieved person is back to normal routine. They start to do things and assume their responsibilities and changing their behavior. With time they will become more contented despite having flash backs of the loss.

Usually these stages overlap till the person reaches the last stage of acceptance. In some cases people will revert back to initial stages especially anger and bargaining after accepting the loss. Though grief is a normal process and recovery is a normal process too. It is important to seek professional help if the grieved person is going through severe depression for more than 2-3 months.


Emotion, Grief, Loss, Process, Reaction

Meet the author

author avatar maftab92
I am a clinical psychologist from Pakistan. I am running my own clinic to help people overcome psychological problems.

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author avatar Uzma Shakoor
8th Jul 2010 (#)

very nice

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author avatar Denise O
26th Aug 2010 (#)

I have been witnessing my brother go through these steps after we lost our Mama in May 2009. I didn't.
I spent the last 4 1/2 weeks at her bedside in the hospital, fighting with her, as her partner. I was able at 46 to be there for my Mama's last breath, as she was there for my first one, it just seemed so natural. I prayed for my Mama as she was passing and then she went. I walked out knowing she was fine.
I do cry at times but, it is through laughter or a grimacing smile, as I recall one of her antics.
Your article has given me some incite in how to help my brother cope with it all. My brother is mentally challenged so it has been much harder in helping him deal with the loss of our Mama. Thanks.

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