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Stages of Grief - an Overview

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Grief is emotional suffering that results from incidents like the death of a loved one. Read below to know the stages of grief and ways to overcome them.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Vishal Anilkumar Gandhi

Published At September 21, 2022
Reviewed AtSeptember 30, 2022

What Is Grief?

Grief can be defined as intense sorrow due to life incidents that are difficult to accept, like losing a loved one, professional failure, breakup, etc. It is a natural phenomenon to which everyone responds differently. The threshold to deal with distress varies among individuals and the response depends on the same. According to the way people respond to loss, grief is classified into seven stages.

What Are the Stages of Grief?

Irrespective of the threshold to bear distress, a person's process can be categorized into seven stages from the moment of grief to a period of acceptance. These stages can be defined as a cycle during which a person learns, accepts, and adapts to the new reality.

Following Are the Stages of Grief:

  • Stage of Shock: The first and foremost reaction to loss is shocking, where a person can't believe the truth, and everyone reacts to it differently. Some faint, some become speechless, whereas others might even experience a minor heart attack as a response to the news of loss.

  • Stage of Denial: During this phase, a person refuses to accept reality, and an individual can't believe that the incident has happened and that it is normal to think that way. It is a defense mechanism to deal with the loss. During this phase, an individual is shocked and numb.
  • Stage of Anger: This is the first stage where reality sets in, and a person tend to feel frustrated this frustration is later turned into anger, and a person starts holding higher power or authorities responsible and blames them for the incident, and thoughts like God is so unfair, the boss is so partial are normal during this stage.

  • Stage of Bargaining: This is a stage where a person generally thinks of what he could have done to prevent the loss, this is the stage of negotiation with higher authorities.

  • Stage of Depression: This is the first stage where a person gives up on putting in efforts to revert the loss and realizes the reality that makes him feel sad and depressed. A person experiences sleeplessness, loss of appetite, and is lost of thoughts.

  • Stage of Testing: This is the stage of mixed emotion where a person tries to accept reality but continues to have comparatively low episodes of depression, this is the stage where an individual tries to find ways to deal with the loss and cope with life.

  • Stage of Acceptance: This is the phase where a person realizes and embraces reality and tries to move on with life.

How Long Would These Stages Last?

The duration it takes for a person to accept reality, move on, and deal with further life events normally takes time but the exact duration cannot be specified as different people have different ways and mechanisms to deal with the loss, though a person is never completely over it, as even in future the occasions like birthday, anniversaries, or the places where they worked or visited together would remind of a person who is no more. But now, the intensity of the grief is lowered.

Symptoms of Grief:

A person dealing with the loss goes through various stages like the reading above. Every person has different physical or emotional behaviors while going through these stages, which can be termed symptoms, which can be listed as follows:

  • Feelings: An individual dealing with grief experiences multiple feelings like anger, anxiety, blame, confusion, denial, depression, fear, guilt, irritability, loneliness, numbness, relief, sadness, and shock, all at once, thus dealing with them becomes difficult.

  • Thoughts: When the person is grieving he is lost in his thought almost every time and is confused, distracted, have difficulty concentrating, might experience hallucinations where he might hear or see the person lost, and has disbelief.

  • Physical Sensations: Due to overthink, disturbed routine, improper sleep, and diet a person's health is completely compromised and might face physical sensations like dizziness, fatigue, headaches, nausea, stomach upset, weight loss, or gain.

  • Behaviors: An individual dealing with grief might be irritated, and aggressive all the time for no reason at all. He might even look restless and have trouble falling asleep.

How Can We Overcome Grief?

Dealing with the loss varies depending on the emotional capabilities of different people. As loss is an unavoidable part of life it is important to learn to cope with it and find ways to move on with life.

Various ways to deal with the grief are:

  • Acknowledge the pain.

  • Seek help from friends and family.

  • Physical self-care to heal mentally is important.

  • Understand this is just a phase that too shall pass.

  • Differentiate between grief and depression and seek professional help if required.

  • Understanding the grieving process of everyone is different, and yours too, will be unique to you.

  • Dealing with and overcoming grief becomes easier when you socialize or engage yourself in activities that make you happy or enjoy doing.

Conclusion:

Grief is a state of mind due to losing a loved one or job after a breakup. While grieving, a person goes through various stages and learns to leave with the loss. While going through the above-mentioned stages and coping with the loss, an individual presents various symptoms like anger, anxiety, depression, confusion, sleeplessness, etc. But until a person learns and accepts the reality and tries to cope with the loss, the duration that would be required is unspecified.

For quick recovery from the loss, a person is advised to socialize and keep himself busy, as grief badly affects the physical and mental well-being of an individual. A person who is grieving might look depressed, irritable, and apprehensive without any significant reason. Though the person moves on and carries on with his routine, he is never entirely over the loss, occasions like birthdays, anniversaries, or any memories like a place or a photograph remind him of a person and make an individual feel sad, but the intensity of grief is reduced over time.

Frequently Asked Questions

1.

Does Everyone Experience the 5 Stages of Grief?

The way one experiences grief varies from one individual to another. Emotions and feelings differ and some may experience all stages of grief while others may not. Most of these feelings and emotions come and go with time.

2.

What Is Grief in Psychology?

Grief is the normal reaction one experiences after a significant loss and can impact one’s emotional, spiritual, physical, cognitive, and behavioral aspects of life. A significant loss can be anything from the loss of a relationship, the death of a dear one, physical impairment due to trauma, to the loss of home or living due to natural calamities.

3.

What Is the Theory of Grief?

There are different theories that explain grief. The most important ones are:
- Kubler-Ross Grief Cycle:
Grief is not a linear process and consists of five stages - Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
- Attachment Theory:
Bowlby’s attachment theory states that one experiences emotional disturbances when affectional attachments are broken.
- Freud’s Model:
Freud’s model of bereavement emphasizes personal attachment and suggests that the individuals in grief are actually searching for a lost attachment.

4.

What Is the Longest Stage of Grief?

The stage of depression is the most difficult and longest stage of grief. Depression causes a feeling of sadness, lack of enthusiasm, and helplessness. People may get lingered in this stage for months or even years.

5.

What Is the Final Stage of Grief?

As per Kubler-Ross's grief cycle, the final stage of grief is acceptance. In this stage, the emotions are more organized and the individual re-enters reality.

6.

What Stage of Grief Is Anger?

As per Kubler-Ross's grief cycle, anger is the second stage of grief. The individual often blames themselves or others for what has happened, and the anger is directed at the family or other close ones. A religious person may even end up questioning God. It is a stage of grief and should not be fully suppressed.

7.

How Much are The 5 Stages of Grief Accurate?

How one grieves depends on the individual and there are no such definitive stages that all go through. Some may experience all the stages, some may skip some of the stages, or some may have a totally different emotional experience.

8.

Why Do People Cry in Grief?

Crying is one of the ways in which one expresses sorrow and grief. It often acts as an ultimate healer, helping one to move on in life.

9.

What Triggers Grief?

Grief triggers can be anything that brings up memories of the significant loss the individual experienced. The following are some of the events that act as grief triggers for those experiencing grief due to the death of a dear one:
- Special occasions that bring back memories of the lost one.
- Certain smells.
- Certain visuals or visiting certain places bring back memories.

10.

What Did Freud Say About Grief?

Freud’s model of bereavement emphasizes personal attachment. It states that a person in grief is in search of a lost attachment. The detachment from the loved one is referred to as mourning. He suggests that when the process of mourning goes wrong, melancholia occurs. Melancholia is a form of depression in which the person experiences a complete loss of pleasure in everything he or she does. Finally, the bereaved accept the loss.

11.

What Is the Best Model of Grief?

Kubler-Ross's model of grief is said to be the best-known model of grief.

12.

What Is Grief in Philosophy?

Philosophically, grief is considered an important aspect of a meaningful and good life. Grief provides an opportunity to fashion a new identity and helps with self-growth. It offers an opportunity to evolve by adapting.

13.

What Is Testing in Grief?

During the time of testing, one moves in and out of the different stages of grief and is in the process of trying to find out ways to deal with the loss.

14.

How Long Is the Grief Stage?

There is no such definitive timeline for the duration and stages of grief. It varies from individual to individual and the emotions and thoughts come and go with time. However, some studies suggest that the symptoms improve over six months, and the condition usually resolves within two years.

15.

Why Is Grief So Hard?

The pain of loss can be overwhelming for the individual, and grief is hard work; it requires a lot of energy to overcome grief, which may drain someone both emotionally and physically.
Dr. Vishal Anilkumar Gandhi
Dr. Vishal Anilkumar Gandhi

Psychiatry

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