In my work with people, there are a wide variety of concerns brought to our sessions. The one area that I greatly appreciate and cherish working with is loss and grief. Deep grief and loss allow us to connect to our most vulnerable part of ourselves that is authentic and raw.
As long as we value something or someone, we will all experience grief and loss during our lifetime. Loss is the unwanted change or an absence of someone or something (i.e., person, situation or an object) we value and cherish. Loss can be perceived or an actual loss. Perceived loss is when the grieving person experiences loss that is unique to that person and is less obvious to others. For example, loss of identity, financial independence, or self-esteem.
Grief is an internal reaction and an emotional response to loss. Often grief is a strong emotional pain that is hard to put into words. Grief does not only occur due to a loss of a loved one through death, but can also occur from relationship breakdown, loss of job, loss of identity and anything that is significant to a person.
Stages of Grief
There are 5 stages of grief that was introduced back in 1969 by an American psychiatrist, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross.
Stage 1: Denial
In order to cope with the overwhelming emotion from a loss, one might be in denial or be in a state of shock. During this stage, one feels life becomes meaningless and often goes numb, or unable to see themselves going on with life. Focus is on getting through each day as it comes. Denial serves a purpose. It allows us to pace how much we can cope with the feelings of grief and helps us manage by letting in what we can handle gradually. We begin the healing process once we start to accept the reality and as we move out of denial, the emotions we were denying or pushed aside during this stage begin to surface, which is also a part of the grieving process.
Stage 2: Anger
Anger is a necessary emotion to our healing process. It is often known as a secondary emotion because it is used to mask other vulnerable feelings such as underlying emotions of deep pain, abandonment, rejection, and fear. Anger can be directed to people, situation, or objects. Some may not experience this stage, and some may linger here longer than others. Anger can be experienced as feelings of resentment or bitterness. As anger eventually diminishes, we create space to process other vulnerable emotions that we’ve been pushing away.
Stage 3: Bargaining
In the stage of bargaining, people often find themselves with “if only” and “what if” statements. Often in grief, we feel helpless and out of control in our situation. As a result, we do what we can to try to regain control. It is common for someone who is religious or believes in higher power to bargain for a different outcome or for healing and relief from pain and grief. It is a defense to help us cope with vulnerable emotions of grief like pain, hurt and deep sadness.
Stage 4: Depression
Depression is an appropriate response to great loss. After anger and bargaining stages, we settle into quiet and empty feelings of sadness. Withdrawing from life and wondering what the point is in going on with life. Depression is not a state to be fixed or snap out of, it is a necessary step towards the process of healing. It is important to note the distinction between depression from grief with clinical depression. In grief, feelings of sadness and depression lessens in intensity and frequency over time but with clinical depression, mood remains negative or might worsen over time without treatment and can impact self-esteem and sense of joy and pleasure in the long run. That being said, there is also the possibility of developing clinical depression during grieving process if left unchecked which can also lead to complicated grief.
Stage 5: Acceptance
This stage is not the same as feeling happy or being “okay” with what has happened. Rather, it is a stage of acceptance and coming to terms with reality of loss. Through acceptance we may experience more good days than bad, and as we begin to enjoy life again, often one might feel guilty. We are never truly okay with this new reality, but we make peace with it and accept it. We can never go back to the way things were and find ourselves living with our new “normal” – we readjust.
The Grieving Process
It is natural and normal to experience these emotions after a loss. In fact, not everyone will go through all of these stages, and that is okay too. Each person experiences grief in their own unique way; there is no right or wrong way of grieving. How a person grieves depends on their culture, personality, life experiences, and coping mechanisms. While grief may be experienced differently by people and culture, there are aspects of grief that is universal. The intensity of grief is determined by the level of significance and meaning attached to the loss. The different stages of grief happen in a non-linear manner and there is no timeline to one’s healing process. No matter how you grief, it’s important to be gentle and patient with yourself to allow your healing process to unfold naturally.
During this time of loss and grief, you might want to withdraw from others. But connecting with your loved ones during this difficult time is vital and helpful for healing process. The comfort of those who care about you and sharing your loss with others can help you carry the burden of grief.
If you are someone who has experienced a loss and is having a difficult time grieving, please reach out for help. You can book a free meet and greet with Jennifer, before getting started on your healing journey.
To connect with Jennifer please click below to book a free meet and greet, before getting started on your therapy journey.
Disclaimer: The content provided here is for informational purposes only. It is not to be used for diagnosing or replacing treatment from medical and mental health professionals.
Jennifer Leong is a registered social worker and psychotherapist with a professional goal to help improve and maintain good mental health for anyone who is willing to seek supports. She has a great interest in working with people from all walks of life who are facing difficulty with various life adjustments, stresses, and loss. She also works with people struggling with depression, anxiety, trauma, abuse, issues with boundaries, issues with self-esteem and self-worth, past difficulties and interpersonal relationships.
She would love to hear from you, connect on Instagram @jenniferleong.msw