Grief, at its core, is a natural and organic response to loss.
We all have probably experienced grief or felt it at some point in our lives. Whether it's the loss of a loved one, the end of a relationship, or a significant life change, grief can disrupt the equilibrium of our lives.
My own encounter with grief has been an exploration of emotions, a journey that has reshaped my perspective, deepened my empathy and allowed me to find healing in the most unexpected places.
As I continue to walk this path, I am reminded that healing is not a destination; it's a continuous process that allows me to discover new facets of strength and resilience within me.
What are the 5 Stages of the Grieving Process?
Grief can emerge from either a perceived or real loss in our lives. Researchers have offered different models to enhance our understanding of how those who are grieving process and manage their emotions.
One prominent model is Elisabeth Kübler-Ross's “Five Stages of Grief”, which includes denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. While not everyone follows this linear progression, these stages offer insights into the multifaceted nature of grief.
Let’s take a closer look at each of these five stages:
The denial stage involves a sense of unreality. In this stage, we are trying to process the reality of what is happening. We can think of denial as our body’s natural defence mechanism saying, “I can only bear so much at this moment.”
“They’re just upset. This will be over tomorrow.”
“This isn’t happening to me.’
As the weight of reality settles in, anger frequently comes to the surface. This phase is often characterised by feelings of bitterness, resentment, and frustration.
There may be increased aggression and hostility towards others and we might also seek to blame others for our pain. It is worth noting that some researchers acknowledged that anger is a necessary and natural response in the grieving process.
“Life isn’t fair.”
“Why must it be me?”
At this stage, we may revisit past actions, replay them in our minds, and explore alternative scenarios that might have the potential to reverse the loss. This can manifest as an attempt to regain a sense of control or a desire to rewrite the narrative of what transpired.
“If only I had spent more time with her, she would have stayed.”
“If only I had called her that night, she wouldn’t be gone.”
Depression stage is a sign that we are starting to accept reality. In response, we might find ourselves avoiding certain situations and even resorting to self-isolation, instead of reaching out to others for support.
While this is an inherent part of the grieving process, dealing with depression after the loss of a loved one can be extremely isolating.
“I don’t know how to go forward from here.”
“What am I without him/her?”
In this phase, individuals come to terms with the reality of the loss. Acceptance doesn't always arrive with a burst of positivity, but rather a willingness to move forward, integrating the loss into one's narrative.
“Ultimately, this was a healthy choice for me.”
“I’ll be able to find a way forward from here and can start a new path.”
Strategies to Cope
While there's no shortcut through the process, there are strategies that can help find our way towards healing.
1. Feel Your Emotions
Don't push away or hide those feelings; they're an integral part of the journey towards healing. It’s important to allow ourselves to experience a range of emotions, from sadness and anger to moments of confusion and even relief.
2. Lean on Your Tribe
Remember, you don't have to go through this journey alone. Reach out to friends, family, or support groups that can offer a listening ear and a shoulder to lean on. Their presence can provide comfort and validation.
3. Ask for Help
Sometimes, the weight of grief can be too much to bear on your own. A therapist or counsellor who specialises in grief can provide you with the tools and guidance to navigate your emotions in a healthy way.
4. Prioritise Self-Care Engage in activities that bring you joy and relaxation, whether it's reading a book, taking a walk in nature, or simply indulging in a favourite hobby.
5. Establish Routines
In the midst of uncertainty, finding a routine can offer a stabilising anchor. Even small, consistent actions can provide a sense of order and predictability, contributing to a sense of security during uncertain times.
Coping with grief is a deeply personal experience, and there's no one-size-fits-all approach.
Here’s leaving you with a beautiful quote by Elizabeth Kubler- Ross which captures the essence of the journey we undertake after a loss:
“The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you’ll learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same nor would you want to.”
About the Writer
Jeannette Qhek is the Wellbeing Lead at Actxa Wellness, where she curates the wellness curriculum with relevant science-backed content. Extremely passionate about the psychology behind human behaviour, she is now pursuing her Master's in Counselling with Monash University. Her other passion is content creation, and she is part of Tiktok's team of Youth for Good Wellness Education. As part of this exciting journey, she created "Chill By Nette", an online wellness space to share her resources and learnings. Through sharing her voice and creativity, she hopes to make psychological concepts and wellness research knowledge more accessible and fun to the public.