Grief is a universal human experience, an emotion that we most often feel when we lose a loved one. Grief is most often associated with the death of someone close to us, but it is also applicable when a relationship ends, a job is lost, or another major life change occurs.
Psychological research has shown that there are five distinct stages of grief that we go through during the grieving process. In this blog, we will discuss what the five stages of loss and grief are, and how grief counseling can help you through this challenging time.
What Are The 5 Stages of Loss and Grief?
The first stage of grief is denial. In this stage, like the name suggests, you struggle to accept that your loved one has passed or is in the process of passing. You find yourself behaving in ways as if everything were still normal, such as giving them a call to speak with them before realizing what you are doing. It takes time for your mind to accept that this person is passing and will not be in your life anymore, and it takes time to stop doing the behaviors you used to do that included your loved one. Denial is a natural, first reaction to grieving, in which your mind purposely does not accept the facts of the situation to try to minimize emotional pain and feeling overwhelmed.
Once you start to let yourself feel your emotions, in many people it manifests as anger. You may start to question why this had to happen. You may even blame yourself or others for what has happened, even if there was nothing that could be done to prevent the situation. Anger allows us to express the intense emotions we are feeling and can be perceived as more socially acceptable than being scared or sad. However, anger is an intense emotion that can drive others away from you even though what you may need is comfort from others and a shoulder to cry on.
In the third stage, you will begin to make “bargains” with God or the universe, whatever higher power you may believe in. For example, you may think or pray, “If you save my loved one, I will be a better person.” This behavior of bargaining gives a perceived sense of control in our lives during times when we feel very out of control. In addition, in the bargaining phase, you may reflect on the ways you may have acted badly towards your loved one in the past and judge yourself for this.
The fourth stage of grief is depression. At this point, you will feel like bargaining isn’t helping anymore, and you will begin to face the fact that your loved one is passing or has passed. At this point, you will feel less scared and panicked, instead feeling more sad and less sociable. Counseling can help you through all stages of grief, but it is especially important in this phase, so that you can find a way to be at peace with the situation.
Acceptance is the last stage of grief, in which you feel you must accept what has happened and can no longer ignore it or resist it with denial, anger, and bargaining. This does not mean you are no longer sad or regretful, but instead that you have fully come to terms with the fact that your loved one is gone. In doing so, you will begin to change your behaviors from those that included your loved one and accept that you must move on without them.
Grieving Is Different For Everyone
It is important to realize that everyone goes through the five stages of grief differently. Some may spend more time in one particular stage, skip some stages, or move back and forth between stages. Some may not even experience them in this order. The time it takes to go through the stages also varies – some people process in a matter of weeks, whereas for others it can take months and even years. Because of this, however long it takes you to go through the stages is valid and okay. However, if you feel like you can’t seem to reach acceptance or feel stuck in depression, it is also valid and recommended to start grief counseling.
Grief Counseling Near Me
If you are in the process of grieving, you do not have to go through it alone. Grief counseling is specifically designed to help you learn coping mechanisms to process your grief and gently arrive to the acceptance stage.
At Atlanta Specialized Care, we have helped many clients through this extremely hard period in their lives. Our licensed professional counselors, social workers, and advanced practice psychiatric nurse practitioners use their years of experience to help each client through their individual grief journeys and help them find the joy in life again.
To schedule an appointment with us, call us at 770-815-6853, or request an appointment online.