Understanding The 5 Stages Of Grief

depressed businessmanKaryn Washington, creator of popular website For Brown Girls, committed suicide earlier this month at the age 22. For Brown Girls is a website known for its efforts to empower by celebrating the beauty of African-American women, particularly those of dark-complexion. Having grown comfortable in her own skin at a young age, Washington was an inspiration to women of all colors and hues as they began to recognize and embrace their own beauty. While all reports indicate that Washington had a strong sense of self, was clearly ambitious, and had a strong social network, she was dealing with a very personal battle familiar to many of us: managing loss and grief.

READ: No More Silence: Death of Founder “For Brown Girls” and #DarkSkinRedLip Project (VIDEO)

In our quest to understand what drives people to commit to suicide, we must first take a look at the struggles that led up to the tragedy. Reports indicate that Washington’s mother had recently passed away after a long painful battle with cancer; the loss became increasingly difficult to manage and grief consumed this young woman. To understand how loss can turn into all-consuming grief, we must first differentiate the two.

Loss vs Grief

Loss is often associated with death. But loss can also include illness, the loss of a job, divorce or positive changes such as a promotion, a move, or marriage. Grief is the emotional process we experience as a result of the loss. There are five stages of grief widely acknowledged by mental health practitioners that were first proposed by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her 1969 book “On Death and Dying” and they are as follows:

1. Denial and Isolation: Our first instinct is to deny the reality of our loss. We block out the words and hide from the facts as a defense mechanism to buffer our immediate shock. It is a temporary response that helps us get through the first wave of pain.