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A guide to grief

Posted: 4/16/2020 8:00 AM by Interim HealthCare
We've all experienced loss, and we've all gone through a grieving period. Grief is our natural response to death and loss, and it provides you with an opportunity to first mourn and then ultimately, to heal from your loss.

When we think of grief, we most often associate it with the death of a loved one or friend. But many other circumstances of loss can cause people to grieve, including:

> When they become separated from family or friends
> When they or a spouse loses their job
> When they have a major life change, like moving, getting divorced or retiring
> When a pet dies or runs away
> When kids leave home for college or elsewhere
> When you or someone you love has a serious or terminal illness

During times of loss, you'll often hear a relative or friend say something along the lines of "we all grieve in our own way." To an extent, that is true. But understanding the stages of grief is important to working through emotions in a healthy manner.

Support groups, therapists and leaning on friends or family can provide immense comfort and support while you grieve. But at the opposite end of the spectrum, some of the decisions we make while grieving can also derail our hearing process, including:

> Not dealing with our emotions
> Using drugs or alcohol to try and deal with the pain
> Downplaying our feelings with ourselves or while talking to others
> Participating in compulsive behaviors
> Throwing ourselves into work and even overworking

Grief can be crippling. But ultimately, you will begin to heal. In this short guide, we walk through the stages of grief. 


The Stages of Grief

The length of time we spend in each stage of grief varies from person to person, and even circumstance to circumstance. And while the five stages are consistent, their order also is not. Resist the urge to feel you should be in a certain stage at a certain time. You may go through all of these stages, or only some of them. As mentioned above, grieving is process that is unique to each person and instance. Understanding and recognizing these stages, though, may help you as you work through your grief on the path toward healing.

Denial

When in the denial stage, things may feel meaningless. Things don't make sense -- something or someone who was just here is now gone. You may feel numb, and floating through your days. During this stage, you are probably not acknolwedging or dealing with your emotions. The shock and loss are raw, and experts theorize the denial stage is nature's way of protecting us from the overload of emotions that can assault us at times of loss. 

Anger

Your anger may feel limitless during times of loss. Why can't things be the way they were? Why and how could something like this happen? You may be angry at the person you've lost, at doctors, at family or friends, and any god or deity. Anger gives solid footing to your feelings -- it's easy to focus on the anger as a foundation when times are feeling incredibly unstable. 

But rather than avoiding your feelings of anger, experts explain that addressing and acknowledging your feelings of anger will help them lessen so that you can progress toward healing. 

Bargaining

During times of loss, it is natural to wonder how you could change the situation. What you could do to "fix" things, even though things cannot actually be changed. As a result, you may bargain with a god or deity and offer to change or do something in order to "undo" what has happened. 

Thinking "if only" or "what if" is very common in this stage. The feeling of helplessness that accompanies lost contrasts sharply to the feelings of control and action we more often feel during everyday life. It may also feel easier to cope if we live in the past and "what ifs" instead of dealing with our emotions and situation. 

You may move in and out of bargaining, rather than dwelling in this stage for some time. Just as we can do with any stage of grief. Remember, each journey is unique to the individual and circumstance. 

Depression

When we move away from bargaining or anger and truly face our emotions, it's normal to have feelings of depression. We're forced to face our feelings and deal with loss head on -- this is extremely difficult for anyone, 

You may withdraw from "real life" and feel more like you are simply "getting through days." You may feel like you're in an impossible fog of sadness that simply won't lift.  You may not feel like the activities you normally participate in are worthwhile anymore. The depression you feel while grieving is not mental illness, but a natural response to loss.

Acceptance

Don't mistake acceptance as suddenly being "okay" with loss. A majority of us will never feel "the same" after profound loss. But, when you are in acceptance, you begin to recognize that this is your new normal. And that life goes on. This goes against our natural instinct after loss, which is to put life back to "normal," the way things were before your loss. 

You likely won't wake up one day and feel acceptance. It may come in bits and pieces as you realize that life won't be the same as before your loss. It may start off as simply having more good days than bad days. Or feeling more like "yourself" than you have in some time. 

At this point, you're not denying your feelings, but are moving forward to grow and learn. You find meaning in days and people and activities. Although nothing will ever replace your loss, you are able to move forward. 
 

Help is here for you

From family and friends who want to help you grieve, to support groups and therapists, there are many people who want to help you get through your difficult time. Remember that there is no right or wrong way to feel as you grieve, and there are many people who want to help!