If you have ever experienced the loss of a loved one or friend, a change in a relationship, or dealt with a serious or life-changing illness, you have likely experienced grief in some form. This is a very personal experience, and, at times, it can be a very overwhelming emotion. If you're experiencing loss, it's normal to have questions and to wonder what to expect as you move through the process and stages that come with grieving.
You may wonder why you have certain emotions or if it is normal to have the thoughts and feelings you are experiencing. You may ask yourself questions like "Am I supposed to be feeling this way?" "Why are others not affected as much as me?" or "What am I supposed to be feeling at this point?" It can become easy to compare the way you handle grief with what you perceive as another's way to grieve. It's important to understand that the emotions around grief are a personal journey and that everyone grieves differently.
The Five Stages of Grief
When many of us hear the word "grief", we associate it with sadness that is related to grief. However, people can experience it for other reasons. Any situation that disrupts life or the feeling of loss can result in a person grieving. The loss of a home or job, a relationship that ends, moving to a new city, or being unable to complete a goal can all cause similar emotions.
If you are dealing with grief, it's important to understand that grief is normal to have good days and bad days. It's also normal to feel like your moods fluctuate from time to time throughout processing your grief. As we will discuss in more detail in this article, there are common stages of grief that bereaved people usually experience. Your feelings are valid, and you have a right to grieve.
Does Everyone Experience The Same Stages?
It is all a personal journey. It is a process that takes time. As difficult as the process may seem, there is hope, and learning to understand the stages of this emotion can be the beginning to understanding that this is part of the journey, not the end of your journey. Take your time to grieve through the stages. Allow yourself to do it in your unique way but remember that help is available if you feel that anything is significantly impacting your life.
The symptoms appear differently in each person. They may appear as emotional, physical, or social disruptions, depending on how well you cope with grief and other stresses in your life. It's not uncommon for people to experience physical symptoms from grief such as headaches, loss of appetite, or sleep disorders.
Feeling like no one understands what you are going through or not feeling comfortable talking about the grief often leads to social isolation.
Grief is a process, but it is not all about feeling overwhelmed or distressed. There comes a time in the journey of the stages when working through changes and learning to rebuild life begins to occur. As the emotions associated with the process begin to settle and the mental strain of the initial part begins to ease, it becomes easier to work through feelings and to seek solutions for managing emotions and life in general. During this stage, a bereaved person may begin to set goals for the future.
Keep in mind, although this stage is related to grieving, it is more about the bereaved person begins to have a sense of control over his/her life again. Life begins to feel less tumultuous and focusing on physical and mental well-being seems like a less daunting task.
Mental health conditions such as bipolar disorder, ADHD, and schizophrenia are a few illnesses that can lead to complicated bereavement. Because people with mental illness often experience alterations in the way they process thoughts and emotions, the effects of grief can be profound, the stages may change with the symptoms of a mental illness.
Postpartum depression, affective disorder, anxiety, and panic attacks can also make the symptoms of grief seem much worse. Recognizing symptoms of anxiety or depression and any other mental illness that you or a loved one has experienced is key to understanding when it's time to seek medical advice and a diagnosis.
If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with a mental illness and is also experiencing bereavement, it is important to see a primary care provider and/or mental health provider to make sure any necessary measures that can promote emotional well-being are implemented and followed.
Grief can feel like an emotional rollercoaster at times. However, there are ways to learn to cope with grief and the sadness that occurs and to begin healing.
While each person deals with grief differently and goes through different stages, there are some things that you can do to begin coping healthily.
Even with an active support system, the process is not always simple. Some people may feel unable or unwilling to move from one phase to another, leaving them feeling "stuck" in a particular stage. It's important to remember that these stages or steps are personal. These people experience what is known as complicated grief. Complicated grief is the term used to describe a bereaved person feeling "trapped" in the emotions associated with grief. When this occurs, the bereaved person may express feeling unending feelings of anger or sadness and may remain in denial regardless of the efforts of others to help. This is a chronic condition that often requires the assistance of mental health professionals.
Some people may transition from one phase to another without difficulty but may remain in the cycle for what seems like an endless amount of time. They may experience one or more stages of grief repeatedly. Although these emotions can feel overwhelming, this does not always indicate a significant problem or lack of coping mechanisms. The type of grief and how it occurred may play a factor in how easily a person recovers entirely from the loss of a loved one.
When grief doesn't end, BetterHelp can help. Online therapy, such as the therapy provided by BetterHelp, provides individuals an opportunity to connect with mental health professionals who are equipped with the knowledge and skills necessary to help facilitate effective coping and healing. Online therapy is convenient, as most sessions can be scheduled at the client's discretion and can be done anywhere a client has access to a phone or internet. Talking to a grief counselor online at BetterHelp.com allows you to work through your emotions in a safe and comfortable setting when it works best for you.
BetterHelp.com offers clients access to licensed, trained, experienced, and accredited psychologists, marriage and family therapists, clinical social workers, and board licensed professional counselors who can help tailor a plan of care specific to you and your needs. If you are experiencing grief, you don't have to experience the journey alone. Reach out today and let our dedicated team of professionals help you through the grieving process.
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Grief is a natural part of losing something or someone you held dearly, and it takes time. If you feel your grief is a burden you can't carry alone, there are trained professionals at BetterHelp available to help when you need it.
Still curious about the five stages of grief? Here are some of the most commonly asked questions that a grieving person may have.
Everyone deals with grief differently. Some people may struggle the most during the denial stage, and others may struggle most with anger during their healing process. There's no right or wrong way to experience grief, and not everyone experiences every step.
You may even cycle through the grief stages several times before finding acceptance. Support groups are a great option for those struggling with their grief, as you can connect with others going through a similar process and feel less alone in your intense emotions.
For many who have lost someone, the question "why me?" can come up often. In all reality, there is no good response to this question. Death and loss are part of the cycle of life, and they are extremely painful for those who are left behind. This is a natural response, but we know how difficult it can be.
The best way to heal from grief and understand it is to learn to live with a new reality and know that the intense sadness won't last forever.
Grief can be so difficult to overcome, especially in the case of sudden death or an unexpected trauma with family members. The best way to overcome grief is to get through it. During the grieving process, many resources are available, such as support groups, online therapy, and more.
If you are experiencing trauma symptoms such as intense fear, reliving the event in your mind, and feeling hypervigilant, it is time to get help. Processing trauma and grief at the same time can be scary, and a trained mental health professional is a good option to help you through it.
Studies about grief medically reviewed in Europe PMC show that grief is different for everyone. Some people may experience seven unique stages of grief, and others may experience other stages that aren't listed. The 7-stage grief model shows two other steps, including the upward turn and the move towards getting support.
These two extra stages, especially the sixth stage, are the times when most people going through grief start to turn their energy into productive healing. The 5-stage grief model (also known as the Kubler-Ross Model by Elizabeth Kubler Ross) includes these steps in the final step, which is acceptance.
Some people may experience grief when they have experienced a distressing diagnosis, such as in the case of terminally ill patients. This grief can also sometimes be seen alongside clinical depression and trauma. It is totally normal to grieve a medical diagnosis or a terminal diagnosis.
If you are dealing with major depressive disorder, grief, or traumatic symptoms related to your diagnosis, a licensed mental health counselor with experience in chronic illness and terminally ill patients can help.
Understanding grief in its entirety can take a long time, and there's no shame in asking for help for any one stage that you're going through.
Many people who experience grief continue to seek support when they are in the acceptance stage if they need to. Reach out to family members and friends as well, as being isolated can make grief worse.