What are the stages of grief?
Updated: Nov 14, 2022
In many ways grief is the price we pay for love, the response to the loss of a loved one or other creature that mattered a great deal to us. If you haven’t faced a significant loss, you might expect that grief will hit you all at once and then slowly fade with the passing of time. However, grief is often experienced unpredictably, changing mercurially like the weather, at times stormy and cruel and something we wish to run away from, and at others, bringing with it periods of peace that wash over like clouds parting.
A complex myriad of reflection, depression, gratitude, and anger, are all part of the expected and natural course of grief.
There are many different models that explain the process of grief and the way it impacts us. One frequently cited framework, which has since been discredited in light of erroneous usage, is referred to as ‘the five stages of grief’.
What are the five stages of grief?
The process of grief is highly individual. Factors such as someone’s go to coping mechanisms, personality, and even religiosity, can all affect the psychological responses to a loved ones passing.
The ‘five stages of grief’ is a widely recognized theory which circulates amongst bereavement resources, articles across the internet, and even practiced therapeutic counsellors. However, the concept was only ever meant to be used as a framework to refer to the stages someone goes through after being diagnosed with a terminal condition. These ‘five stages’ therefore are braved by the self, not by loved ones of the deceased. What’s more, the idea that one experiences a mere five emotional states spanning, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance, in response to another’s death is ignorant to the nuanced, complex nature of grief.
You may indeed experience some of these emotional reactions, but to suggest that there are strict ‘stages’ is incorrect. You will undoubtedly shift between one state to another, zig-zagging about in your own journey of grief that encompasses an even wider realm of human emotion, should you lose someone close.
What to expect when grieving
Grief can bring up many emotions, some that you might not have even anticipated, such as anger and fear. Losing someone held dear is a difficult thing for anyone to go through, Birthdays, anniversaries, and other significant days you associated with them, are likely to bring up those initial feelings you experienced soon after they passed.
Symptoms of grief can include shock, numbness, sadness, tiredness, and even guilt, for instance, from ruminating over past interactions and ways you could have navigated your relationship to the deceased differently. Grief is a process, unique to you and ever-changing, bringing with it peaks and troughs of difficult emotions, sometimes at times when you’d least expect it. You may cry a lot and feel like you cannot cope, and that is okay, and only natural. However, it is crucial for people to reach out and know who to turn to when struggling with bereavement.
Support for those who have lost a loved one
No man is an island and you needn’t face this alone. Reach out to friends and family for support when things get tough to talk through and process your feelings. If you try to push down your grief your unresolved emotions can have negative repercussions, i.e. overcompensating by working too hard, sleeping excessively, avoiding close relationships for fear of getting hurt, or isolating yourself from others in order to run away from what has happened.
When opening up to others make sure to do so with someone who makes you feel safe and comforted. In addition to reaching out, you might find that things such as journaling can help you process your emotions.
Grief is a difficult thing to go through, especially if they were close to you, died unexpectedly, or if that person took their own life, but there are people and places to turn to for guidance and support. Besides counselling, reaching out to loved ones, and finding ways to cope on a personal level, there are organisations and even helplines that you can turn to when times get tough.
What to do after experiencing loss?
As well as reaching out to friends, family, and professionals if needs be, you might want to find a way to memorialize your loved ones life that you can turn back to.
Aura Flights offer a truly unique memorial service in the form of ash scattering in space. We send their ashes 100,000 feet above the Earth via a custom-made spacecraft, and with the aid of our bespoke scattering vessel, cascade the ashes with the stunning sights of space as a backdrop. After the ashes are released, they will travel the globe along with stratospheric winds, eventually falling back down as rain or snow when the time comes.
Aura Flights capture the footage of the ashes travelling to the vast blackness of space as well as the scattering, all accompanied by music of your choice as well as quotes and a digital photo album.