Understanding the Stages of Grief

The Stages of Grief

The work of grief cannot be hurried. It takes a great deal of time, and it may be the purest pain you have ever known.

You may experience many stages of grief and you may not experience them in any particular order. It is important to realize, however, that whatever you are feeling is natural and that, with time, you will heal.

Loss affects people in different ways and it is not unusual to experience:

  • Disbelief and shockImmediately after a death, it can be hard to accept what has happened.  Sometimes people try to deny it, feel numb or even shock, or expect to see their loved one even though they know the person is gone.  Some may find it difficult to express their thoughts while others are able to express emotions immediately.
  • GuiltIt’s normal to regret things you might have said or done, or failed to say or do.
  • Fear:Death often causes people to face their own fears about dying, while others fear life without their loved one, or taking on new responsibilities.
  • Anger:Some may feel angry at their loved one for having “deserted” them. Some may feel angry about the unfairness of the death. Others may feel the need to blame someone.
  • Grief “spasms”:Many people have uneven emotions which seem to come and go.  Some days feel “good” while the next day, or even the next minute, and seemingly “out of nowhere,” you feel intense sadness. This is normal, even though some people feel they must be “going crazy.”Preoccupation with the Deceased:
  • Despite efforts to think of other things, a grieving person may find it difficult to shift his/her mind from thoughts about the deceased person. This is not unusual and, with time, should lessen.
  • Physical problems:Grief can take its toll on your health, causing weight loss or gain, anxiety, less ability to fight off diseases, extreme fatigue.  Some people will begin to hurt and experience real physical pain. It is very important not to suppress your feelings. These feelings often surface at a later time in unhealthy ways. Sharing your feelings can be a gift, and bring closeness to others who are also in pain. 

The most common physical distresses are:

  • Sleeplessness
  • Tightness in the throat
  • A choking feeling
  • Shortness of breath
  • Deep sighing
  • An empty hollow feeling in the stomach
  • Lack of muscular power and general weakness
  • Digestive symptoms and poor appetite