You may have heard of the stages of grief before. There are seven official stages, although some people only list five. The grieving process can often last a very long time in cases of loss where there was a wrongful or accidental death or death of someone extremely close to you in an unexpected way.
Read on to learn about the seven stages of grief and how you can get through each one. Remember, everyone grieves differently. Your first stage may be someone else’s fifth stage. It’s okay to not grieve “in order.”
Stage One: Shock
The first stage of grief is often your initial reaction to learning about the death of a loved one. You will go through a shock. This stage is especially prevalent in those who did not know someone was going to die.
Shock may feel like:
- Feeling numb
- Being unable to see or hear things around you
- Feeling like time has stopped or stood still
- A fast or slow heartbeat
- Feeling unable to think or process what happened
If you are experiencing the initial shock of grief, you will want to be somewhere safe with people who are good for you. Remember that it’s okay to cry or yell out if you need to.
Stage Two: Denial
A standard stage in grief is the denial stage. The surviving person may feel that the death didn’t even happen during this stage. They may avoid making funeral arrangements or talking about the person that died.
Some people may feel that they are being lied to or that the deceased person will show up any day soon. They may also feel that somehow the death was false or made up.
If you are feeling denial, it’s okay and normal. It’s hard to accept something difficult as a fact. Our brains are wired to want to protect us from that type of harm and sadness, so we learn to try to analyze it instead.
Stage Three: Anger
Not everyone experiences an anger stage during grief. However, those who do may say it’s the longest part of the experience.
Anger during grief may come out like:
- A child punching a pillow
- Not being able to cry or show any emotion other than anger
- Feeling angry at the universe, God, or yourself
- Feeling angry at the person who passed
- Feeling angry that the death happened
Anger can feel all-encompassing at times. That’s why it’s helpful to have an outlet for it. A healthy outlet for anger could be:
- Screaming into a pillow
- Angrily writing about your feelings
- Throwing rocks into a river
- Using a punching bag
- Going to a demolition room and destroying things
You can help get rid of anger by allowing yourself to feel it until it passes. However, this requires a healthy outlet.
Stage Four: Bargaining
For some people, bargaining is a large stage of their grief. Like denial, bargaining is a behavior that tries to take back what has already happened. You may feel like pleading with the universe for something to change or praying for a different outcome for something that already happened. You may be seeking a way out of the grief.
For you, this may include wanting to drink or take medicine to avoid the pain. It’s important to not turn to substance use to go through grief. If you want to turn to substances, it’s a good idea to talk to a licensed grief therapist.
Stage Five: Depression
The fifth stage of grief is sometimes the hardest or longest. You may go into a period of months of depression, feeling that you cannot get out of bed or do your daily tasks. If you are a single parent, this stage can be the hardest of all.
Getting help for the depression stage of grief is similar to the other stages. It’s essential to find the proper grief therapist to help you.
Remember, sadness is normal during grief. It’s okay to feel sad every day. Using a therapist during this time will simply help you learn how to continue living and not stay stuck in your bed 24 hours a day.
Stage Six: Testing
The sixth step of grief is a healthier form of bargaining. It’s when you may start to look for resources to help you get through the grief. You may start to look for a grief support group, talk to a therapist, or find information online that can help you and your family through.
It’s a positive step, and it’ll lead to the final step of acceptance once you’re ready.
Stage Seven: Acceptance
The final stage of grief is acceptance. This stage happens when you have accepted that the death has happened and know it as a fact of life. You will be able to manage your emotions better, and you can think back on the person fondly (if they were someone you loved a lot that treated you well).
Remember, acceptance doesn’t mean “forever okay.” You may still experience every other step in this list again at times. However, they should come less often. If the relationship with the person who passed was rocky, you might find that your acceptance stage is harder to come to.
In that case, you may want to speak to a therapist, either online or in-person, to get help. Grief therapists are highly trained in each of the seven steps of grief and can help you understand your own cycle.
Remember, acceptance doesn’t mean that you are happy about the person’s passing or that you have forgotten them. It’s simply a stage that means you’re more ready to move on with your life and keep the person’s memory going positively.
Grief is a complex subject. Everyone experiences grief a little bit differently, and every situation is unique. If you want to learn more about grief and how it works, check out BetterHelp. They’ve got tons of advice columns and can help you figure out what will work for you during your grieving process. You’ve got this!
Marie Miguel Biography
Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health- related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with BetterHelp.com. With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.