I’ve been working with a lot of clients lately who are grieving. The interesting part is, many of them have not had a loved one pass away, but instead are grieving some other type of loss. This might be a job, expectations of family life or how a friendship might progress, or it might be the loss of someone who is still living. This last type can happen when a relationship ends or people become impaired to the degree that “they’re not themselves” anymore.
The following article specifically addresses grief over someone who is still alive, but the principles can apply to other types of loss as well.
It’s important to note that the basic stages of grief apply to all types of loss, including those that are developmentally normal (such as graduation). There is loss at the end of a phase of life, and when mixed with the excitement of an upcoming phase, the emotions produced can be quite confusing.
The stages of grief originally identified by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross remain helpful today for understanding what’s happening in your emotions. They don’t happen in any certain order, you won’t necessarily feel all of them to the same degree, and they are likely to recur in response to an anniversary of the loss. You can even experience multiple stages at once, relating to the same loss or to different ones.
- Denial–A more understandable name for this stage is “shock.” You’re not denying that the loss happened. It’s just not possible for your mind to process all the emotion that goes with it, so you might feel a little numb or detached or practical, wondering why you’re not more emotional.
- Anger–It is very common to have anger directed toward people and circumstances that are associated with the loss, and even toward those that are unrelated. People will often feel angry at God as well.
- Bargaining–This is the stage where the “what ifs” and “if onlys” come into play. Some things you might have legitimately done differently, while others are simply your mind’s attempt to make some sense of and take a bit of control in a situation that is beyond your control. If it’s the end of a relationship you’re grieving, you might try to “just be friends.” (This rarely works, by the way.)
- Depression–This is the stage most often associated with grief, where you feel sad and have a sense of emptiness because of the loss. As with all the stages, this can range from mild to severe. It can be difficult to do daily tasks, think clearly, or have interest in much of anything at this stage.
- Acceptance–Remember that this never means you “like” the situation. Acceptance is wrapping your head around the fact that this is the new reality, sort of the opposite of the shocked stage. Adjusting tends to happen in small pieces. You may find that you’ve accepted the loss in one sense, and yet you feel sadness and anger toward other parts of the loss.
If you find you are experiencing grief, give yourself a break. It takes a lot of emotional energy to deal with loss, and thus you can easily feel drained. Let yourself feel, distract yourself when necessary, and find ways to refuel your emotional tank. Click here for some tips on how to do that…
If you’d like to talk about your grief or any other issue that you may be struggling with, I would be happy to meet with you personally. Just give me a call at 636-234-0035 and we’ll schedule a time to talk. My office is conveniently located in downtown Washington Missouri across from the Old Dutch Restaurant.
I look forward to helping you feel better!
Katie Walker, Licensed Professional Counselor