Grief has no rules.
It doesn’t wait for a convenient time to show up. It comes unannounced. And it knocks you down.
On the latest episode of The Well Robin Bailey and Rebecca Sparrow look at grief, a topic that often goes overlooked – because we don’t know how to deal with it. Robin explained how following the structure of the seven stages of grief helped her through the two years after the death of her husband.
The stages were first conceptualised by psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, and explained in her book, On Death And Dying. They act as a framework to make sense of your emotions and gauge your progress towards healing, even if, as Robin found, you don’t move neatly through them in sequence.
Stage 1: Shock and denial.
When you learn that someone you love is gone, your first reaction is likely to be numb disbelief. You’ll deny the reality of the loss on some level, to avoid the pain that it bound to come. This stage can last weeks.
Stage 2: Pain and guilt.
As the shock wears off and the realisation that your loved one is gone, denial is replaced with the suffering of unbelievable pain. We often return to this step when grieving, and it can feel overwhelming. Just know – it passes.
You can listen to the full episode of the podcast, here. (Post continues after audio.)
Stage 3: Anger and bargaining.
In stage three, frustration gives way to anger. You may lose control, and lash out at the people around you who are trying to help. Resentment builds, and you may try to lay blame on others for the death, whether or not it is rational.
Stage 4: Depression, reflection and loneliness.
Stage four is one of the most difficult steps, as you start to feel unsupported and isolated. Just when your friends think you should be getting on with your life, a long period of sad reflection will likely overtake you. Remember, your friends and family want to help you, try not to push them away.
Stage 5: Upward turn.
Finally. This is where things start getting better. In your upward turn, you start to adjust to life without your loved one there. You’re not there yet, but the depression is lifting.
Stage 6: Reconstruction and working through.
At stage six, you can start putting the pieces of your life back together. You begin to function again and your mind starts working properly. And all those things you’ve been putting off? Well, it’s time to seek realistic solutions to your problems.
Stage 7: Acceptance and hope.
In the final stage, you will learn to accept and deal with reality of your situation. No, the pain won’t be gone, but you’ll learn to live with it. Thinking of the person you’ve lost may still bring tears, but it might also bring smiles, and happy memories.
If you’re not making linear progress through the stages, don’t worry.
“You may go from one to three and then back to two,” says Robin.
But if you’re experiencing loss, the stages will hopefully help you know what to expect, and remind you that what you’re feeling is normal.
When we decided to do this episode of The Well on grief, we wanted to start a conversation. We wanted to create a forum where we could all share our stories on life, love and loss, and help one another to keep going.
And wow, we were blown away by the response we got! We’ve had people sharing ideas on ways to remember their loved ones, messages letting us know the episode really helped, and people who simply wanted to share their own experiences with grief. We have read every one of your messages and we hope you will continue sending them through.
They don’t have to be about grief. Tell us what is on your mind, what you’re doing to be happier and healthier, or even just something that made you smile today.
The Well is the show that explores the head, the heart and the happiness of life. Listen to the full episode below and subscribe in iTunes.