The 7 Stages Of Grief And How They Affect You
Updated May 12, 2020
Reviewer Melinda Santa
Grief is a horrible emotion to feel, because it means that something tragic has happened in your life. In most cases, it's usually the loss of a friend, family member, pet, or other loved one. But just what happens when you experience grief and what should you do about it? Understanding the seven stages of grief is the first step to helping you to cope and move forward to a fulfilling life.
There are times in life when you can't help but experience grief. When you lose someone you love or have another serious loss in your life, it would be unrealistic to expect stable emotions. Learning how to move through the stages of grief is crucial. Studies have found that when you're dealing with grief, you're also more likely to develop other mental health challenges as well.
Don't ever feel like you're the only person trapped in grief. It's a normal response to loss. The best way to move forward in a healthy way is to allow yourself to work through the stages of grief. You don't want to stay stuck in a single stage, but you also don't want to force yourself to progress through the stages too fast, either. There's a natural progression, and when you follow it, you'll eventually find you're moving into a much better place.
The 7 Stages of Grief
Shock and Denial
When someone first brings you that bad news, it can be difficult to believe. You want to just shake your head and say, "no way." You may start to feel numb. The shock and disbelief are actually suspending your pain, and this may last for several weeks.
This doesn't mean the loss didn't impact you. It's simply the first stage in the grief process.
Pain and Guilt
Once your shock starts to fade, you'll notice the pain. This is when it first starts to hit you that your loss is real. The pain may be extremely difficult to handle, and it may feel physical as well as emotional. You may even start to feel guilty about something you could or should have done for the person (even if it's illogical).
Anger and Bargaining
Next, many people feel angry. You may feel angry with your religion, with someone who was taking care of that person, with the person responsible, or the person themselves. It may be completely unreasonable who you feel angry with, but you seek out someone you can blame for the loss. You may even attempt to bargain to bring that person back.
Depression, Reflection, and Loneliness
Depression, reflection, and loneliness usually come later. When many of your family or friends are starting to overcome their suffering or starting to think you should be overcoming your own suffering, you may feel depressed. It can hit even harder than the initial pain, because you're truly coming to terms with the loss.
You're not feeling the pain as much as feeling the change to your life. Maybe you've lost someone you spent a lot of time with or the person you always told secrets to. This material loss can cause depression, reflection on the way things were, and loneliness as you realize those times are gone.
Finally, just when you think there can't possibly be anything good coming ever again, you'll start to feel a little better each day. It may be so slight that you don't even realize it at first, and you won't feel happy all at once. What you may feel is a little less pain, a little less sadness, and more of being okay.
Reconstruction and Working Through
This is where you'll start to work your way through the aftermath of losing that loved one. Maybe you have to take care of some financial troubles either caused by the loss or the grief. Maybe you need to just put yourself back together. This is the stage where it all begins.
The final stage is the one you'll be in for the rest of your life: you start to accept the loss fully and begin to move on with your life. That's not to say you ever "get over it," but that you start to feel okay. You're able to think and talk about your loss without feeling the despair or intense pain. It may make you sad to think about, but it may also make you happy, because now you can remember the good times.
Therapy Can Help with Your Grief
The stages of grief are different for everyone. You may only spend a few days in disbelief, while others may spend weeks. You may never go through a bargaining stage, while someone else spends a lot of time there. There's no right or wrong way to grieve, and there's no timetable. Getting through this pain, however, can be extremely difficult to do on your own. Seeking professional help, like what you can get from BetterHelp, can make a huge difference in your life and in your healing process.
If you're stuck in a stage of grief, or if you feel depressed, therapy can help. Sometimes being able to talk to someone else, share your stories, and express pain can be incredibly healing. Counselors can also help you learn strategies to cope with the difficult emotions you're struggling with. Read below for reviews of some BetterHelp counselors, from people experiencing similar issues.
"Sarah is a kind person that listens intently, focuses on issues, and then helps find successful strategies to deal with those issues. Never once did I feel that she was judging me or talking down to me. She was easy for me to open up too, she was professional, and she took me seriously. Together we discussed issues of loss and grief from the passing of my father, which had become more than I could handle alone. She not only validated my feelings of loss, but she also helped me find ways to mitigate those feelings, break them down into their roots and causes then address those. Coping with grief and loss is hard work, but Sarah helped me find the tools I needed within myself to do that hard work and ultimately find success. I am a stronger person now. I am happy and confident. I may not know what is around the next corner, but I know that whatever it is, I can handle it."
"John has been very helpful in helping me set realistic goals to understand and work through my grief. No loss is ever easy, but being able to talk to someone who understands that it's not easy has been helpful."
Loss is one of the most difficult hardships we'll endure. It's out of our control and brings a lot of painful emotions. However, counseling can help you move from grief to a balanced and healthy life with renewed joy. Take the first step today.