It has been a year since your father passed away, but still the anguish and loneliness creep in and you continue to grieve by hibernating in the corners of your room or playing busy with work, or simply crying yourself to sleep most nights. You might think, “Will I ever get over my Dad’s death? Will I ever be happy again?”
Losing someone we love is one of the most difficult things that we can ever experience. Though death is a natural phenomenon, that fact is easier understood than accepted. It can never be dealt with just like that. But as the saying goes, this too shall pass, and it will. But then sometimes you wonder if the pain is ever going to end. How long is the normal way to grieve? Can you do something about it?
The process of grieving is something that we cannot control. Not everyone grieves the same way you do, and they may have different channels to their grief, but healing from the pain of losing someone comprises different stages. You will do well to be aware of these stages so that you can come to terms with your emotions and finally be ready to let go of the pain.
Understanding the Stages of Grief and Loss
- Denial. Feeling numb is the best way to describe how you are at this stage. You kind of don’t feel anything, or perhaps you try not to feel anything. You are shocked at what just happened, can’t believe you lost your loved one. This is a person’s way of blocking himself from getting hurt, which actually is more helpful than destructive at this point, as it allows only as much pain as we can handle. It is through denial and isolation that we are able to survive the emotional turmoil of realizing that we have lost our loved one.
- Anger. Reality is now slowly sinking in, and the anger follows suit. You start to question why you had to lose your loved one, why it had to happen, why you of all people. You feel hopeful and useless. You shout at your kids, your other family members, your friends, and you are furious at yourself. You know now that there is nothing you can do but grieve for your loss. Like denial, anger is a natural feeling, a natural part of the process of grieving. You are even allowed to be angry at your loved one who died. As Tali Yuz Berliner, Psy.D. elaborates, “Experiencing a significant loss such as losing a loved one, a pet, a relationship, or a job can bring on feelings of grief that can be extremely overwhelming. Typical feelings associated with grief include sadness, anger, guilt, numbness, and confusion.”
- Bargaining. Technically, to bargain is to negotiate. This stage of grieving still follows the technical definition of grief in that when we are at the brink of losing someone we love, we tend to negotiate and say, “If you’re going to let my dad survive this, I won’t ever talk back at him. Just please save him.” When you’ve finally lost him, you feel defeated, and regrets sink in and you think, “What if I was able to bring him earlier to the hospital,” or, “If only I spent more time with him.” Clearly, at this stage, the coping is still defensive but the death of the loved one is slowly being dealt with and understood.
- Depression. “Depression is a serious and tricky illness. Unfortunately, it can also go unrecognized for a long period of time” That’s according to Dr. Kurt Smith, LMFT, LPCC, AFC. But with grief, this type of depression is intermittent and is something that one feels when he has gotten over the denial, shock and the anger. Therefore, it does not come right away but is something can occur anytime of the day, week or month and can last for a long time. Usually, depression sets in when you have realized that your loved one really isn’t coming back ever. Depression could be the longest – and the loneliest – phase in the process of grieving. You’ll know you’re depressed when you’ve lost your appetite, constantly anxious, can’t sleep at night, and always crying.
- Acceptance. “Acknowledge and accept the feelings: The first step is to learn to bring the feeling out,” says Roya R. Rad, MA, PsyD. In the fifth and final stage, acceptance, you have now come to terms with the death of your loved one and you know you can’t change anything, not even if you did the best that you could. Here, you are able to slowly move forward despite the pain and loneliness. You will try to live with the truth that you will never see or touch your loved one again. This phase also involves role adjustments and reorganizations, transfer of roles to other family members now that the head of the family is gone, for instance. Acceptance may take a long time, or it may be short, depending really on how you deal with your loss, but it is in this phase where you feel much lighter, much happier.
- Each of us has different ways of going through the stages of grief and loss. Some don’t go through them chronologically and some go back and forth. In reality, no one truly knows the depth of the pain and hurt you are feeling, and these five stages can be your guide for emotional and mental support. Try to open up when you can, so you can grieve earlier and coping will be easier.