Grief in unavoidable as we go through life. People present grief in various ways – some cry, some remain in denial while others might withdraw from situations and those around them. However, in order to constructively deal with grief, it is very important to understand the various stages of grief.
A study published in Frontiers in Psychology emphasises on Swiss-American psychiatrist Elizabeth Kübler Ross’ model of grief. Ross’ model says that there are five stages of grief, questioning it for its effectiveness, and says that there are better evidence-based alternate models. To understand the various models as well as gain a better understanding of grief, Health Shots got in touch with Dr Ankita Priydarshini, Consultant Psychiatrist and Behavioural Medicine.
Grief is a profound emotional response to loss, encompassing a range of feelings such as sadness, disbelief, anger, and despair. “It is a natural and complex process that individuals undergo when faced with significant life changes or the death of a loved one,” she explains.
Is grief different from sadness? Not entirely. It is a stronger version of sadness. Sadness happens on a daily basis, while grief is more long-lasting.
The 5 stages of grief, according to Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, provide a framework to understand the emotional journey of individuals facing loss:
This initial stage involves a sense of shock and disbelief. Individuals may struggle to accept the reality of the loss, using denial as a protective mechanism to cope with overwhelming emotions.
As the impact of the loss sinks in, individuals may express frustration, resentment, or rage. Anger serves as a way to externalize and release the emotional pain associated with the loss.
In this stage, people attempt to negotiate or make deals in an effort to reverse or mitigate the loss. It reflects a desire for control and a search for meaning in the face of adversity.
The profound sadness and sense of emptiness become more pronounced. Individuals may experience feelings of isolation, hopelessness, and a deep emotional weight as they confront the reality of the loss.
This final stage involves coming to terms with the loss and finding a way to move forward. It doesn’t mean forgetting or being unaffected, but rather integrating the reality of the loss into one’s life.
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The 7 stages of grief, an extension by David Kessler, and offer a more nuanced understanding of the grieving process
This stage involves the initial impact of the loss, often accompanied by a sense of numbness and disbelief. It serves as a buffer to the overwhelming emotions that follow.
Similar to Kübler-Ross’s model, this stage involves resisting acceptance and clinging to the hope that the loss may not be real. Denial provides a temporary escape from the emotional pain.
Individuals express their emotional pain through anger, directed either inward or outward. This stage allows the release of pent-up frustration and a confrontation of the injustice of the loss.
As a coping mechanism, individuals may attempt to make deals or negotiate with a higher power to reverse or alleviate the loss. It reflects a desperate search for a way to regain control.
The stage where the depth of the sadness becomes apparent. Individuals grapple with the profound impact of the loss, experiencing feelings of helplessness, isolation, and intense sorrow.
In this stage, individuals explore new ways of living without the presence of what or whom they’ve lost. It involves experimentation and adjustment to a changed reality.
Finally, individuals come to terms with the reality of the loss. Acceptance does not imply forgetting or minimizing the significance of the loss but rather integrating it into one’s life narrative.
Acceptance is often considered the most challenging stage of grief as it requires people to confront the reality of the loss and adapt to a life without the presence of what or whom was lost, says Dr Priyadarshini.
Nothing is fixed. Grief is a highly individualized process, and there is no predetermined timetable for moving through each stage. It is essential to allow oneself the time and space needed for healing, explains Dr Priyadashini. People can move back and forth between stages, and the grieving process is not strictly linear.
Constructive ways to help oneself during grief involve a holistic approach to mental and emotional well-being, says Dr Priyadarshini
Connect with friends, family, or support groups to share feelings and experiences. Human connection can provide comfort and understanding during difficult times.
Consider therapy or counselling to receive guidance from mental health professionals. A trained therapist can offer strategies to cope with grief and provide a supportive space for expression.
Prioritise physical and emotional well-being by engaging in activities that bring comfort and joy. Maintain a balanced lifestyle with proper nutrition, exercise, and adequate rest.
Find healthy outlets for expressing grief, such as journaling, art or talking to a trusted friend. Acknowledging and expressing emotions is crucial for the healing process.
Create a structured daily routine to provide a sense of stability during a turbulent time. Routine can offer predictability and help manage the overwhelming nature of grief.
Celebrate and honour the life or experience that was lost in meaningful ways. Creating rituals or commemorations can contribute to the healing process.
Understand that healing takes time, and it’s okay to experience a range of emotions without judgment. Give yourself the grace to navigate the grieving process at your own pace.