While these bromides may be easy to say, they are generally unhelpful and can short-circuit or interrupt the very healthy grieving process of someone’s who’s lost a loved one.
Last week, my wife’s father died of a sudden heart attack at the age of 75. Diabetic, overweight, and prone to various dietary indulgences, his death was not entirely unexpected in the bigger picture, but one always feels that there’s more time, more visits, another Christmas, another family vacation or reunion down the road. His death was shocking on some levels, and the grieving began from the moment my wife received the call from her mother that he had indeed died.
Stages of Grief
The 5 Stages of Grief. As developed by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross in the 1960s and 1970s, there are generally five widely accepted basic stages of the grieving process, and these include denial, anger, depression, bargaining, and acceptance. This process, however, is not cut and dry, and these stages can occur in any order over an enormously variable amount of time. Some individuals may cycle through all five stages in the course of a single afternoon, while others may remain in one stage for weeks or months, “stuck” in depression or “stalled” in an overwhelming feeling of anger.
A Multitude of Emotions. While these stages may seem somewhat simplistic on a certain level, their simplicity belies the notion that, hidden within those five stages are a multitude of feelings and emotions that contribute to the overall sense of loss that each stage communicates. The depressed person may isolate, but the angry person may also do the same, and while one person bargains with God, another may simply move into a feeling of acceptance, only to be overwhelmed with grief when the next birthday or holiday rolls around.
Grieving…While Still Living Your Life
Most professionals who work with those who are grieving would agree that the grieving process is long, sometimes lifelong in its depth and breadth. Feelings of loss can come and go, and the grieving individual may even experience moments of elation, laughter, liberation and peace.
Even then, that same individual may also experience guilt, sensing somewhere in his or her mind that laughter and joy somehow dishonor the dead and lessen their importance and the significance of their passing. This guilt is indeed misplaced, but it is a normal part of the grieving process and is widely experienced by those grieving the loss of a loved one, whether sudden or expected.