Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The 5 Stages of Grief

If you are dealing with depression due to the loss of a loved one, you have probably gone through the 5 stages of grief. And, if you're still felling depressed because of this loss, you may not have gone through all 5 stages of grief.
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Grief is a natural response to loss. It’s the emotional suffering you feel when something or someone you love is taken away. The more significant the loss, the more intense the grief will be. You may associate grief with the death of a loved one—which is often the cause of the most intense type of grief—but any loss can cause grief.

The reaction to loss can encompass a range of feelings, thoughts, and behaviors, and is experienced differently by each person according to his or her culture, background, gender, beliefs, personality, and relationship to the deceased or loss. Feelings common to grief are sadness and yearning. Guilt, regret, anger, and a sense of meaninglessness can also be present. Some may also a feel a sense of relief and liberation. Emotions can be surprising in their strength or mildness, contrary to the expectations of the griever; they can also be confusing, such as missing a painful relationship.

Grief, like death, is a natural part of life. Understanding what to expect and engaging in coping strategies can ease you through the pain of the grieving process and open up your path to personal self-renewal.

Every person grieves differently. Just as no two lives are the same, so will each death, and each grief experience, be unique. Your experience may dramatically differ depending on how close you were to the person who has passed, for example, or the circumstances of their death­—sudden or gradual. However, there is plenty of available information to help you come to terms with your individual grieving process and learn how to cope with your grief.

Most people have heard of the five stages of grief, also known as the Kubler-Ross model. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross was a groundbreaking psychiatrist who ignited public conversation about death in a time when the subject was largely taboo. Her 1969 book, On Death and Dying, introduced the world to the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Though the stages were originally intended to reflect the experiences of those dying, Kubler-Ross later extended their definition to encompass the experiences of anyone who has suffered a loss or tragedy.

The 5 Stages of Grief
Denial: This stage is often experienced as a state of shock. You may feel numb, disoriented, or overwhelmed. Some report a trance-like state or a sense of unreality. Though confusing, these feelings help us to slowly come to terms with the reality of the loss, rather than dealing with all of our emotions up front.

Anger: Anger can be directed at anyone who you feel has blame in your loss. You might feel anger toward your family and friends, your loved one who has passed, or the doctors who were unable to save them. You may also be angry with yourself or the world. This anger is a manifestation of the pain of your loss; it can be understood as a measure of your love for the person.

Bargaining: You may find yourself asking “what if” questions, thinking about what could have been done to save your loved one, and perhaps bargaining with God or the world: “If I could have just one more day with them…”  Bargaining is often accompanied by guilt. This is basically our way of negotiating with the hurt and pain of the loss.

Depression: Depression and sadness are the most recognizable, commonly-accepted symptoms of grief, yet all too often grieving persons are expected to “snap out of it” and act normal. It’s important to understand that after the loss of a loved one, depression is a perfectly normal emotional response. During this stage, you will likely withdraw from normal activities and feel as if you are in a fog of sadness. You may find it difficult to go on without that person in your life.

Acceptance: This is the point where we accept our new reality, one in which our loved one is no longer present. Acceptance does not necessarily mean that you’re “okay” with your situation; it simply means you recognize that the person is indeed gone, that your situation has changed. Acceptance is also when we begin to pick up the pieces and reorganize our lives to fit in with this new reality.

The five stages of grief are not linear; they can occur in any order, and possibly more than once. While the Kubler-Ross model is the most widely recognized, there are many variations, typically ranging from three to seven stages. They may have slightly different titles—“guilt” instead of “bargaining,” for example. 

When researching these, it’s easy to feel inundated with information regarding exactly what “stages” you will experience. Keep in mind that these are broad guidelines to help you understand your grief, not to-the-letter definitions. The goal of these models is to help you accept that though your feelings and reactions can be scary or overwhelming, they are a normal part of grieving, and allowing yourself to experience them will ultimately aid you in healing.

Recovering from Grief
Most people accept that someone has died, but accepting the reality of the loss involves waiting for the numbness, shock, and sense of unreality to subside. To work through the pain of grief is to think one’s thoughts, feel one’s emotions, and to do what our bodies need to do about the grief we experience. This may be memories of the deceased, pangs of guilt or longing, and crying or being with other people. 

Adjusting to an environment where the deceased is missing is a further step in acceptance, where the bereaved begin to rebuild their world, picture of the future, and sense of meaning in the absence of the deceased. People can establish new routines or adapt previous ones. To emotionally relocate the deceased acknowledges that our relationships are not severed by death. The physical presence of the departed may be missing, but we can continue to relate to them through our memories, feelings, and rituals.

Myths About Grief

MYTH: The pain will go away faster if you ignore it.
Fact: Trying to ignore your pain or keep it from surfacing will only make it worse in the long run. For real healing it is necessary to face your grief and actively deal with it. 

MYTH: It’s important to be “be strong” in the face of loss.
Fact: Feeling sad, frightened, or lonely is a normal reaction to loss. Crying doesn’t mean you are weak. You don’t need to “protect” your family or friends by putting on a brave front. Showing your true feelings can help them and you. 

MYTH: If you don’t cry, it means you aren’t sorry about the loss.
Fact: Crying is a normal response to sadness, but it’s not the only one. Those who don’t cry may feel the pain just as deeply as others. They may simply have other ways of showing it. 

MYTH: Grief should last about a year.
Fact: There is no right or wrong time frame for grieving. How long it takes can differ from person to person. 

Source: Center for Grief and Healing

Things to Know:
Everyone grieves differently: what you should expect is a variety of intense emotions, as well as physical symptoms, which can come about in any order. It’s important to understand that what you are experiencing is normal.

It is always better to talk about your grief and deal with it directly than to ignore or suppress it.
A support system that assists you with your emotional and practical needs can help ease the grieving process.

Many people find comfort in ritual, such as memorial services or end-of-life celebrations, which can be healthy outlets to come together and openly mourn with others.

Defeat depression without drugs.

Defeat depression without drugs.

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