Wednesday, June 28, 2017

7 Stages of Grief

My counselor surprised me when he taught me about the 7 stages of grief....nobody died.  He went on to explain that grief applies to any loss.  I looked at him puzzled so he drew a clearer picture.  The grief of a mother that couldn't love me, grief of finding out my idealistic childhood was a fantasy, grief of losing innocence, grief of mourning a relationship that died years ago but I didn't accept it.  The list got longer and longer.  The rough thing is these don't go in an orderly smooth transition; several can mash up all at once.  Anger at feeling guilty; depressed by the pain; bargaining with life and shocked by what is happening.  Grieving is a big part of healing.  Too often someone tells me that I should, "Hurry up and get over it."  Whatever 'it' is.  Part of my depression as actually grieving and an appropriate reaction to what happened.  Some of my past experiences reached the acceptance, hope, and thriving stage....others are still in the Shock & Denial.  Reminder to self, treat myself kindly and with the same compassion I would someone else experiencing grief.  I can be kind to me. 

Here is the grief model we call the 7 Stages of Grief:
    You will probably react to learning of the loss with numbed disbelief. You may deny the reality of the loss at some level, in order to avoid the pain. Shock provides emotional protection from being overwhelmed all at once. This may last for weeks.
  2. PAIN & GUILT-
    As the shock wears off, it is replaced with the suffering of unbelievable pain. Although excruciating and almost unbearable, it is important that you experience the pain fully, and not hide it, avoid it or escape from it with alcohol or drugs.

    You may have guilty feelings or remorse over things you did or didn't do with your loved one. Life feels chaotic and scary during this phase.
    Frustration gives way to anger, and you may lash out and lay unwarranted blame for the death on someone else. Please try to control this, as permanent damage to your relationships may result. This is a time for the release of bottled up emotion.

    You may rail against fate, questioning "Why me?" You may also try to bargain in vain with the powers that be for a way out of your despair ("I will never drink again if you just bring him back")
    Just when your friends may think you should be getting on with your life, a long period of sad reflection will likely overtake you. This is a normal stage of grief, so do not be "talked out of it" by well-meaning outsiders. Encouragement from others is not helpful to you during this stage of grieving.

    During this time, you finally realize the true magnitude of your loss, and it depresses you. You may isolate yourself on purpose, reflect on things you did with your lost one, and focus on memories of the past. You may sense feelings of emptiness or despair.

    More 7 stages of grief...
    As you start to adjust to life without your dear one, your life becomes a little calmer and more organized. Your physical symptoms lessen, and your "depression" begins to lift slightly.
    As you become more functional, your mind starts working again, and you will find yourself seeking realistic solutions to problems posed by life without your loved one. You will start to work on practical and financial problems and reconstructing yourself and your life without him or her.
    During this, the last of the seven stages in this grief model, you learn to accept and deal with the reality of your situation. Acceptance does not necessarily mean instant happiness. Given the pain and turmoil you have experienced, you can never return to the carefree, untroubled YOU that existed before this tragedy. But you will find a way forward.

    You will start to look forward and actually plan things for the future. Eventually, you will be able to think about your lost loved one without pain; sadness, yes, but the wrenching pain will be gone. You will once again anticipate some good times to come, and yes, even find joy again in the experience of living.

    You have made it through the 7 stages of grief.


Tundra Woman said...

When my DH died I was 38. Being a young widow there wasn't much if anything in terms of resources for me as everything was geared towards older women in a different Stage of Life. At work I was transformed from "TW" to "The Widow." It was bizarre as I knew and worked with my colleagues for years and didn't change my name when I got married because all my credentials were under my name. I was not a happy camper at all. I knew all kinds of unhappily coupled couples, I was too young for this, we were right in the middle of building our home etc.

Our society gives you a year to "get over it." A year in the life of one who grieves might as well be a minute. I was still trying to "claw back" the previous year and my life "back there." My dreams were full of symbolism of "back there" burning down when I did sleep. Not often, actually.

It takes about a year for that shock/numb to wear off. That is truly a blessing as it gave me a reprieve of sorts so I could just put one foot in front of the other. But when it wore off I was on my knees-at about the same time society decided "Times Up" and any small support "out there" evaporates. There's a cruel irony in that. Anyway, another year went by and spring came like it eventually does here, all at once. From grey, black and white the world becomes technicolor. I was driving home from work one evening and ruminating yet again over the why and why now and just as everything was coming together etc. I looked over my shoulder for a second and there was a beautiful sunset. Something inside me said very clearly, "All right, so when WOULD have been a good time for him to die?"

Ruth, when WOULD have been a "good time" for your mother and your former belief system etc. to metaphorically die?

mulderfan said...

Hardest thing for me was when it was suggested I "accept" that my parents would never change. Then my counselor went on to explain that acceptance and approval are not synonymous.

Ruth said...

In counseling was a "good time" to grieve, TW. I am sorry that you had a lack of support. I did have support both in counseling and at home. I needed permission to grieve because my mother was still alive. For some reason, I felt she needed to die before I could grieve. Now I understand it was the loss of our relationship. I could grieve for that.

I agree mulderfan, acceptance is not approval. I accept my mother is the way she is and has no intention of changing. I accept that I am the way I am but I don't need to stay there if I don't approve. It was helpful to me when my counselor also separated acceptance and approval.