Grieving is said to be done in stages. These stages manifest differently in everyone, but their roots are the same. It’s extremely difficult to process the loss of a loved one, and many people don’t know how to or even what is happening to them at first. Grieving a loved one who’s passed is not a linear experience, nor is it easy. But understanding the grieving process, it’s layers and effects, can help you through it.
Because grief is experienced differently in each person’s experience, many people don’t know what to expect. They know that they should eventually come to a peaceful acceptance, but often the journey there is harried with turmoil. What they should know is that it is ok to be patient with themselves, it’s ok to cry, and it’s ok to not know what is next.
Losing a loved one is a heavy loss, but you don’t have to feel the effects forever. You’ll always miss your loved one, so allow yourself to grieve properly. Allow yourself to feel the pain of that loss, but know that there is an endpoint to the hurt. Grieving won’t last forever.
If you’re finding it hard to sort out what’s happening with your own grieving process, or simply want to know more about what to expect, then follow this guide to understanding the grieving process as a whole.
What is Grief Supposed to Feel Like?
This is a difficult question to answer. There is so much commotion and exhaustion that comes with death and grief. For example, when a loved one dies, it’s hard to imagine that you will in fact never see them again. Once the funeral is over, the mourners leave, sympathy cards are opened, and the GiftTree gifts are unwrapped, there is no choice but to sit with the feelings. It’s made clear that your loved one is no longer on this Earth, but at least there is a place in which you can visit them.
So much of the early grieving process is confusing because there is so much to do, and because it doesn’t seem real. Once the initial phase is over, the real grief does settle in. Knowing that you won’t see your loved one again in this life is tragic, but there are ways in which you can keep their memory alive.
What are the stages of grief?
Perhaps you already know about what is commonly referred to as the stages of grief. These stages can be experienced differently in different people, and the stages are not always experienced in a linear method. Some people skip over entire stages. Some go through them quickly. Some take years to process. Whatever the case, there are particular stages of grief that a mourner experiences specifically after the death of a loved one.
Denial is usually the first step in the grieving process. During this stage, a person tries to convince themselves or others that the loss isn’t happening or hasn’t happened. This is a way to ignore the deep sadness that can be associated with such a loss, and avoidance is a way to combat against these feelings. This can manifest in ignoring the ordeal altogether, or simply not believing that what happened was actually based in reality.
Anger can manifest in different stages of the grieving process, and it can either present itself by outright blow ups or small flares of anger associated with minor inconveniences. Whatever manner in which the anger presents itself, it is still a prevalent part of the process. This anger stems from the anger associated with losing someone that you love. However, experiencing anger can help the mourner to move forward to the other stages.
Bargaining is an interesting stage of the grieving process. When feeling particularly low or lost, a person may start to make deals with God, those around them, or even with themselves as a way of reversing the loss or somehow making up for it. These “deals” make them feel as if they are setting the balance correctly.
This is a commonly understood stage of grief. Sadness is perhaps the most prevalent feeling associated with grief. Depression can come in waves or present itself has a major episode. This is the stage that is associated most with needing to seek a professional opinion on how to move forward.
This is the stage which those who are grieving hope to reach as soon as possible. Though it may take longer than wanted or expected, there is hope in knowing that acceptance can eventually happen.
What if my grieving has nothing to do with a death?
Sometimes the grieving process isn’t associated with death however. Grief can be felt for many different reasons. When processing a traumatic experience, another type of personal loss like the loss of a job or a home, a breakup, or even the loss of a limb can be factors. A major life event can lead to a period of grieving.
This can be difficult in itself because the person grieving might not know that they are grieving. They might not know what to do with all the feelings that they are attempting to process. If you find yourself in a situation where a major loss occurs, and you don’t know what to do about it, or don’t feel like you have anyone to talk to about it that would understand, then reach out for professional help.
When to seek help
Don’t be afraid to seek help if you’re grieving. You don’t have to process this alone. Many people feel prideful about seeking help, they feel like reaching out is a sign of weakness. Not so. Seeking professional help can aid in the grieving process immensely. Much of the grieving process is difficult to understand and insular. If you want to understand what you’re feeling and have room to feel that way, it might be best to either seek out a therapist, a grief counselor, or a support group.