All of us, as part of life, will experience loss at some stage or another. Some people get over it quickly while others hold onto that grievance for the rest of their lives. Often this loss is associated with the death of an elderly relative, sometimes it is the tragic passing away of a younger loved one through some unexpected accident. Even the beloved family pet leaves people grieving when he or she is gone. Parents might feel at a loss when their children grow up and move to a faraway country or even a different State. Divorcees are often hung up over their loss of what could have been the ideal marriage, and people lose their jobs during tough economic times. Financial loss from joblessness, poor business decisions, or gambling is a common cause of depression and even suicide. Serious illnesses, including addiction, can also cause large amounts of grief.
It is commonly recognized that there are 5 stages we must go through when dealing with loss, as laid out by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in her book ‘On Death and Dying’. These usually but not always occur in the following order:
The person in the denial stage rejects his or her loss, denying that it has actually happened. They use illogical thinking like “oh it’s just a bad dream” to hide and ignore what has happened. Usually, people should be left to get through this stage on their own.
Here the person gains false hope and tries to ‘bargain’ away from their loss, willing to do ‘whatever it takes’ to make this loss go away. Sometimes people pray to God or another higher being, expecting miracles to be performed on their behalf. It sounds a little strange but is a normal part of the grieving process.
This often occurs as the second stage, before the bargaining. The griever cannot be in control of the situation, so a natural reaction is to be mad at it. People can be mad at God, or the person who brought them the bad news (such as a friend, relative, doctor, etc.). Once again this is perfectly normal and persons going through this stage should be allowed to vent and get this out of their system.
The depressed person has moved through the Denial stage and has usually dealt with his or her Anger and Bargaining ordeals. The usual symptoms of depression occur here – crying, deep sadness, loss of hope and faith, and a general feeling that life is not worth living. They become withdrawn from friends and family, and this often affects those around them. This is when they most need to be loved and supported.
Now the person who has experienced the loss has begun to come to terms with the situation. Then and only then can they learn to adapt their lives accordingly and begin to let go and move on.
Going through this process can take from a few months to a few years depending on the person. One should never underestimate the value of a friend’s love and companionship in overcoming the pain involved. The most important thing is to be there for them and help them enjoy other aspects of life. This can aid their speedy recovery.
Dealing with loss is never easy, for the person who goes through it or for those around them. It is obviously hard to recognize these stages if they are happening to you, but the best thing you can do to prepare for your loss or someone else’s is to be aware of this five-stage process.