Coping with Grief & Loss
Updated: Nov 25, 2019
As a therapist, I often find that clients approach me at a point in their life where they are coming to terms with a loss. This loss may take an obvious form, such of as in the death of a loved one or the break up of a marriage, but it can also take less obvious forms, such as loss of control, security or the loss of their sense of self. It may even be about the loss of a future or of hopes that remain unfulfilled. Change and loss can be really destabilising and anxiety provoking. To add to this, people may feel they are abnormal or are not coping in the right way. In my experience, I've found a useful part of coping with grief can be to start by simply understanding that what you're experiencing is normal. With this in mind, below I look at Kubler-Ross model of the five stages of grief. The stages of grief, which may not necessarily present in this order, include:
1. Denial – The first reaction after a loss is often denial and it is quite a clever way the brain has of coping and protecting itself from pain. In this stage, individuals believe the death or loss cannot have really happened. The person at this stage may cling to a false reality to avoid dealing with the acute pain of the loss. 2. Anger – After denial fades, frustration commonly takes its place. Typical responses of a person undergoing this phase might be: "Why me? It's not fair!"; "How can this happen to me?" They may also ask "Who is to blame?" and "Why would this happen?". 3. Bargaining – With bargaining a negotiation is made in exchange for having the lost thing back. Examples include the terminally ill person who "negotiates with God" to attend a daughter's wedding or an attempt to bargain for more time to live in exchange for a reformed lifestyle. 4. Depression – The fourth stage of grief is depression. Responses such as "I'm so sad, why bother with anything?" and "I miss my loved one; why go on?" are common. The person may feel low or apathetic. They may react by refusing visitors, avoiding socialising and spending much of the time focusing on the loss. 5. Acceptance – In this last stage, individuals embrace the future and are more calm, philosophical and stable. "It's going to be okay."; "I can't fight it; I may as well prepare for it." This stage may be reached once the person has processed the loss.
It is also helpful to remember that there is no set time that it takes to heal, and that everyone is different. People may go through the cycles many times for months or years until they reach a place of acceptance. Talking to a professional can help. Feel free to get in touch if you are looking for support with handling your grief.