Death is one of those few universal experiences; no one is immune and everyone will have to experience the grief of losing a loved one.
Everyone handles grief differently, in their own way. At times the responses are healthy, natural responses to a death of a loved one; other times grief comes with the price of overt sadness and depression.
Experiences with grief and mourning have been studied from culture to culture all around the world, and some universal truths have come from these studies.
There is a pattern to grieving and mourning that each individual works through. Mourning is that sense of sadness and loss when a loved one passes on that must be worked through by the individual.
Ahead are the stages of grief and mourning, but I would like to point out there is no particular order for these stages, they are more like aspects of grief and mourning. As each person will grieve in their own way, there is no right or wrong process.
The process becomes unhealthy when the individual turns to alcohol, drugs, or other self-destructive behaviors as a result of grief.
Denial and Isolation
The most natural, most common response to the news of losing someone close to them is to deny that the news is real. Death is permanent; we don’t want it to be real so it is natural to deny the truth in the news.
This temporary response is a defense mechanism, the mind’s way of buffering the intense emotional response that comes with learning of the death of a loved one.
Studies have indicated that once the initial shock of learning about the death of a family member wears off, feelings of anger begin to take hold (Axelrod, 2014). This too is a temporary response.
Anything and anyone could become a potential target for this anger as well, which triggers feelings of guilt, which in turn triggers more feelings of anger. Know that this too shall pass, and you will work your way through the anger and hurt you feel about the loss.
This is the “if only” stage of grief; helplessness and vulnerability are experienced here and the aim becomes regaining control. If only we had been kinder, if only we had known a way to help, if only they had better doctors.
This stage often sees individuals bargaining with their Creator or Higher Power to put off the impending death of a loved one diagnosed with a terminal illness.
Studies have shown that two types of depression are related to mourning and grief (Axelrod, 2014). The first is associated with all the standard implications of death; sadness, regret, worry over funeral costs, worry about others we should be caring for.
Support and reassurance may be the best remedy for this type of depression. The other type of depression is felt on a more private level and represents our personal sense of loss of a loved one. The best remedy could be as simple as a hug.
This stage of grief and mourning is not reached by everyone. Accepting that death is a natural part of life is difficult for many, to say the least.
This stage is our chance to let go of the denial, the anger, the sadness, and just make peace with what has happened. There is no standard time period these stages have to be experienced in, and some people never seem to rise out of their anger or denial.
Knowing and understanding the various stages of grief and mourning however may help you along the way. Give yourself time to mourn the loss of your loved one. If someone close to you is experiencing these stages, be supportive of them and be there for them when they need you.
Grief and mourning are deeply personal emotional experiences; allow yourself to feel these emotions as they wash over you.
Equally important to allowing yourself to feel these emotions is allowing others in your life to comfort and support you, to be there for you in your time of need.
“Because I could not stop for Death, He kindly stopped for me; the carriage held but just ourselves and immortality” – Emily Dickinson