Few things in life are certain. We will all age. We will all experience anger, joy, hunger and thirst at one point or another. And of course, we will all pass away. Your loved ones are included. When death cannot be avoided, we must prepare to deal with it as best we can. Once this inevitable tragedy occurs, we cannot control how we feel or how we process it. We can, however, understand the stages and take steps to not experience permanent trauma and move on more comfortably.

In 1969, a swiss psychiatrist introduced five stages of grief. Dr Elizabeth Dr. Kübler-Ross’ model has been generally accepted as a fairly accurate depiction of the emotions that people who are either terminally ill or lose a loved one go through. The stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. They’re a way to process the trauma. The doctor developed these not simply to understand them better, but to develop techniques to navigate the journey. 

Denial

The initial impact of loss is incredulity. You try to make yourself believe it hasn’t occurred. It’s natural to seek the path of least resistance.

“When you’re in denial about the loss, you try to convince yourself or others that the event hasn’t happened or isn’t permanent. You know the facts, of course. If your spouse has died, you might accept that it happened, but then believe for a time that his or her death means nothing to you.” – Julia Thomas

This symptom shows itself in all facets of life. If you lose your job, for example, you will tell yourself you didn’t want it in the first place. If you parents get a divorce, you might pretend they were never meant to be together.

Anger

A common reaction to loss is anger. The emotion could be directed at the person who left you. It could mean you are angry with yourself. This might reveal itself in arguments, sarcasm or being irritated by little issues. This is not a negative response in its totality as it helps you move on to the next stage. As long as it does not manifest in a way that hurts another person.

Bargaining

Eventually, you will try to get back what you lost in one way or the other.  Some people turn to God, asking for a return of what they lost in exchange for living their life differently. Kids may say, “will my parents get back together if I clean my room more often?” Although this is a necessary step, often the discussions don’t have to end with a positive solution. The act of bargaining itself helps the individual conclude that the loss was finite and out of their control.

Depression

The next stage in the process can be mistaken with clinical depression, and sometimes lead to it. Incapacitation, hysterical crying, sleep loss or over sleeping and changes in appetite are just a few of the symptoms. Even though whatever loss led to this stage might make it seem like your life has ended in one way or another, it is ephemeral and always passes. 

Acceptance

This is the last of Dr. Kübler-Ross’ stages of grief. At this point, you have come to terms with what you lost. You are no longer angry or deceiving yourself. Your life can begin again. Many people feel reborn after overcoming trauma and finishing all the stages.

Tips & Advice

1. Let the emotions out.

Yes, loss is painful. No one would blame you for trying to suppress it, hide it and run away from it. But when you do that, you risk depression, substance abuse or any set of health problems. You can’t go through the stages unless you experience them. Let it out, cry, scream and anything else you need. 

“Trying to ignore your pain or keep it from surfacing will only make it worse in the long run. For real healing it is necessary to face your grief and actively deal with it.” – Melinda Smith, M.A., and Jeanne Segal, Ph.D., on Helpguide.org.

2. Don’t keep the pain a secret.

If hiding your head in the sand and living the hermit life is a part of your process, go for it. That’s fine – for a while. Eventually, you need to move forward and rejoin society. Alone time is fine but isolation isn’t healthy. Humans are a social species. We prosper in tribes because confidants and spiritual leaders help us through the journey. Reach out to someone if you can, there is no shame. There is less weight to carry when you have someone to lean on, figuratively and literally.

3. Don’t ignore your body.

Staring out at the raindrops and living deep in thoughts of your loved one can make you forget about the normal everyday tasks. At first, loss of appetite and disregard for bodily requirements has menial consequences. But if it lasts, it only makes the trauma worse. Baths, exercise and healthy nutrition helps the brain operate and process the thoughts needed. 

4. Distract yourself in healthy ways.

Numbing ones pain with substances can lead to worsening symptoms, incarceration and even death. If you a mourning someone, keep in mind how they would like you to live once they are gone. Instead of turning to drugs, distract yourself with sports, exercise and social activities. Consider counseling or even giving back through volunteering.

5. Come to terms.

Some things can’t be healed by time. It is futile to wait for everything to go back to the way it was. When you lose someone or something you love, sometimes the void will remain. Instead of fear, sadness or despair from the new sensation, make it a part of life. Like a scar, a beauty mark or a white streak of hair from poliosis, learn to live with it and try to make it a strength.

To conclude, If you haven’t experienced this type of loss, the least you can do is prepare for it. Until it happens, no one can truly explain it to you. However, things like financial burdens, funeral costs and loss of income could really affect a family if a member passes away. Consider the healthy habits mentioned above in addition to Term Life insurance. It is easier to take a journey through the grieving process without financial worries.