The Five Stages of Grief and Sorrow

Good morning to each of you and a huge thank you for continuing to visit my site, even in the absence of new posts. May you have a wonderful day and a fabulous weekend. There were several search terms about sorrow and despair, and I’d like to discuss sorrow, or grief, and the five stages of recovery.

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross defined five stages of grief as it applies to death and dying. These stages occur at your own rate, and often show up like a “dance,” with gentle flowing from one stage to the next, back again to the second stage, skipping one or two, then back to one again, etc. Grief is such an individual process that each of you grieves uniquely.

In this discussion about grief and sorrow, I am expanding loss to be anything from a death of a loved one, to the death of a pet, the loss of a job (even if it’s your choice), a move, and loss of a relationship of any sort (even if you left). Anything that leads to the change in the familiar is a loss and needs to be grieved.

Here are the five stages, as defined by Kubler-Ross: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. In the denial stage, you cannot see that what is happening is real, and have difficulty grasping the situation. This stage is all about being in shock and not being able to respond much.

In anger, you are mad at the situation, as well as at the person that is/has leaving/left you, even if they died. Many of you may feel guilty for getting angry at a dying person, yet, that is typical to be mad that they are leaving you, that they did not take better care of themselves, etc. In the case of a move or loss of a job, even if you initiated these, anger hits when you mourn the loss of the familiar, and you get angry at yourself for making the change into the unknown.

Bargaining shows up and often is a plea to God, or whatever the power is you defer to that is bigger than yourself. “If only you’ll let Susie live, I will change xyz, I will be good…” The next stage is depression and this is quite normal to enter a state of depression for a period of time in response to your loss. Be aware, however, if it becomes prolonged or if it affects your ability to eat and sleep for long periods of time, or if you become suicidal. In these cases, seek the care of a physician to determine if you are clinically depressed and in need of medication.

The final stage is acceptance, as you realize you cannot change what has occurred. In this stage, you are not saying that you think everything is okay, yet, you accept things are as they are. You finally gain some peace from the situation and are able to move forward with your life.

That’s a summary of the five stages of grief and sorrow, as defined by Kubler-Ross. Tomorrow, I will talk about another philosophy of grief and sorrow that is related to loss.


New-to-me Theory – Finding Freedom From Grief

I see that many more of you visited yesterday, and I wonder if you were looking for some practical input about finding freedom from grief? That’s why I am writing today with some information I have recently discovered about the grieving process.

I just completed The Grief Recovery Handbook by John W. James and Russell Friedman.  It was highly informative and dispelled my beliefs about grief recovery. It is a book one works through either in a partnership with a close someone, or by themselves. The exercises they invite you to do take you through a grieving process that leads to more happiness and peace, less grief and sorrow.

In it, they talk about doing a Loss History Graph and a Relationship Graph, which points out to you your patterns of grieving with whom or what, and how it occurred, based on what you learned early in life. Their theory is that, with awareness, comes the beginning of change, of grief resolution. 

I had been following the teachings of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, who is famous for her work around the grieving process in the death and dying arena.  I still like some of the things she says about acceptance, even though I am swaying toward the new information. This is the fifth and final stage of  the process she defines. In it, she relays that just because you have accepted the death or imminent death, does not mean it’s okay. It never is alright, it just loses it’s charge over time and after one goes through the first four stages. Those are denial, anger, bargaining, and depression.

John and Russel do not believe that grieving occurs in stages. They believe it is  a process, one which is totally individualized and can vary in length for each person. They believe it is unique to each person, and is dependent upon the relationship you had with the other person or experience. Yes, experiences can produce grief, such as moving from one location to another, or changing jobs/leaving a job.

They define grief as anything that produces conflicting feelings caused by the end of or change in a familiar pattern of behavior, so that’s why the above examples fall into the category of something from which you may need to grieve. We are taught at an early ago how to respond to loss, and the messages we have heard are: don’t feel bad, replace the loss, grieve alone, just give it time, and be strong for others.

John and Russell cite and give examples of why these beliefs are a detriment to and, in fact, block, the grieving process.  So what is their process? It involves first developing awareness of your difficulty with grieving and even that you may be grieving.  Then they have you identify what you are feeling, at the time you are completing a Loss Graph. On the graph, you list out all the losses in your life… the major ones which leave you with uncomfortable feelings today or in the past.

They have more about it, of course, and they add a Relationship graph, in which you define your relationship to the people/pets/loss involved. I am limited in my space to portray the information in this book, and would love to see you to get a copy and follow the exercises suggested… with a partner.

I plan to start with sessions from a coach certified in this procedure and I look forward to finding out if I am still grieving something about which I am unaware, but which affects my ability to maintain my weight. I am also thinking strongly about becoming certified as a coach in this process. That’s because this philosophy really resonated with me and because I deal with Veterans who are dealing with grief in their lives.

Today, consider the messages you were told about loss when you were growing up. Do they sound soothing, do you get strength from them? Perhaps it’s time to discard or alter them. Tomorrow, more about this information…