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Grief Model Background

Throughout life, we experience many instances of grief. Grief can be caused by situations, relationships, or even substance abuse. Children may grieve a divorce, a wife may grieve the death of her husband, a teenager might grieve the ending of a relationship, or you might have received terminal medical news and are grieving your pending death. There are five common stages of grief.

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance
  • Denial

    Denial is the stage that can initially help you survive the loss. You might think life makes no sense, has no meaning, and is too overwhelming. You start to deny the news and, in effect, go numb. It is common in this stage to wonder how life will go on in this different state. You are in a state of shock because life as you once knew it, has changed in an instant. If you receive news on the death of a loved one, perhaps you cling to a false hope that they identified the wrong person. In the denial stage, you are not living in ‘actual reality’ . Instead of becoming completely overwhelmed with grief, we deny it, do not accept it, and stagger its full impact on us at one time. Think of it as your body’s natural defence mechanism saying “hey, there’s only so much I can handle at once.” Once the denial and shock starts to fade, the start of the healing process begins. At this point, those feelings that you were once suppressing are coming to the surface.

  • Anger

    Once you start to live in ‘actual’ reality again and not in ‘preferable’ reality, anger might start to set in. This is a common stage to think “why me?” and “life’s not fair!” You might look to blame others for the cause of your grief and may redirect your anger to close friends and family. You find it incomprehensible of how something like this could happen to you. If you are strong in faith, you might start to question your belief in God. This anger is a necessary stage of grief. It is important to truly feel the anger. It is thought that even though you might seem like you are in an endless cycle of anger, it will dissipate – and the more you truly feel the anger, the more quickly it will dissipate, and the more quickly you will heal. It is not healthy to suppress your feelings of anger – it is a natural response – and perhaps a necessary one. In everyday life, it is normal to control our anger toward situations and toward others. When you experience a grief event, you might feel disconnected from reality and you may not feel grounded anymore. Your life has shattered and there is nothing solid to hold onto. Think of anger as a strength to bind you to reality. You might feel deserted or abandoned during a grief event. That no one is there and you are alone in this world. The direction of anger toward something or somebody is what might bridge you back to reality and connect you to people again.

  • Bargaining

    When something bad happens, have you ever caught yourself making a deal with God? “Please God, if you heal my husband, I will strive to be the best wife I can ever be – and never complain again.” This is bargaining. In a way, this stage is false hope. You might falsely make yourself believe that you can avoid the grief through a type of negotiation. If you change this, I’ll change that. You are so desperate to get your life back to how it was before the grief event, you are willing to make a major life change in an attempt toward normality. Guilt is a common wing man of bargaining. This is when you endure the endless “what if” statements.

  • Depression

    Depression is a commonly accepted form of grief. In fact, most people associate depression immediately with grief. It represents the emptiness we feel when we are living in reality and realize the person or situation is gone or over. In this stage, you might withdraw from life, feel numb, and not want to get out of bed. The world might seem too much and too overwhelming for you to face. You don’t want to be around others, don’t feel like talking, and experience feelings of hopelessness. You might even experience suicidal thoughts.

  • Acceptance

    In this stage, your emotions may begin to stabilize. You re-enter reality. You come to terms with the fact that the “new” reality is that your partner is never coming back. Or that you are going to succumb to your illness and die soon and you’re okay with that. It is not a good thing but it is something you can live with. It is definitely a time of adjustment and readjustment. There are good days, there are bad days, and then there are good days again. In this stage, it does not mean you will never have another bad day where you are uncontrollably sad. But, the good days tend to outnumber the bad days. In this stage, you may lift and you start to engage with friends again, and might even make new relationships as time goes on. You understand your loved one can never be replaced, but you may grow and evolve into your new reality.

  • Symptoms of Grief

    Your grief symptoms may present themselves physically, socially, or spiritually. Some of the most common symptoms of grief are presented below:

    • Crying
    • Headaches
    • Difficulty Sleeping
    • Questioning the Purpose of Life
    • Questioning Your Spiritual Beliefs (e.g., your belief in God)
    • Feelings of Detachment
    • Isolation from Friends and Family
    • Abnormal Behaviour
    • Worry
    • Anxiety
    • Frustration
    • Guilt
    • Fatigue
    • Anger
    • Loss of Appetite
    • Aches and Pains
    • Stress
  • Treatment of Grief

    Counselling is a solid approach toward grief. Support groups, bereavement groups, or individual counselling can help you work through unresolved grief. This is a beneficial treatment alternative when you find the grief event is creating obstacles in your everyday life and need some support to get back on track. This in no way means it cures you of your loss, rather, it provides you with coping strategies to help you deal with your grief in an effective way.