The Grieving Process

Emotional Responses - The Five Stages of Grief

Research shows that there are common emotions and stages of grief experienced by those left behind after bereavement. Working through the stages is believed to be the best way to eventually find a sense of peace and acceptance.

The basic five stages in relation to death are Denial (They can’t have died), Anger (I can’t believe they died and left me or why has God taken them), Bargaining (If only I had stayed they might not have died), Depression (What is the point of carrying on?) and finally Acceptance (I’ve lost someone I love but I know I can move on). Elisabeth Kubler-Ross.

Emotional Responses

Immediately following a death we may be numbed by shock and sometimes be in denial, which appears to lessen the intensity of emotions we are feeling. It is quite normal not to ‘feel’ anything following a death; you can often have a delayed reaction.

Some people don’t deal with their emotions for days, months or even years after the death. Many people feel angry about death – they are raging about being left alone, angry that more could have been done or just a general sense of anger about the loss. You should not feel guilty about being angry – you have lost someone valuable to you and it is normal to feel a sense of injustice.

Quite often people move through the cycle of grief both before and after a death and bargaining can play a big part at both these times. Before the death occurs you may have a ‘chat with someone above’, you may promise to give up something if the person gets better. After the death you may castigate yourself for not doing more and think if you had they wouldn’t have died. Moving beyond this stage is vital if you are to reach acceptance, otherwise you will be burdened by a sense of unreasonable guilt.

Several months following bereavement, after you have moved out of the initial phase of all consuming grief, you may begin to experience a general sense of depression. You may find you are generally disinterested in life, begin to eat less or more, lack concentration and find yourself crying at random things.

When you are depressed it is very hard to keep things in proportion and you may become consumed by your thoughts and emotions. Although this stage is common, if you find yourself unable to perform normal everyday functions you should seek help from your GP – counselling and sometimes medication can help. You can read more about depression here

At some point you will reach a sense of acceptance about the death, this doesn’t mean you forget or stop caring. You may also return to earlier feelings of depression or anger from time to time but acceptance is about dealing with the emotions associated with the death so you can move on with your life.

If you try to ignore your feelings then moving through this cycle will be almost impossible; you may become ‘stuck’ in anger or depression. Dealing with your emerging emotions, whether they are negative or positive, will help you come to a point of acceptance.

Some people find it more difficult to deal with their emotions and death in general. Your GP should be your first source of help. You can also find professional counselling here and talk to others in our forum who are going through the same experience as you.

You can also find helpful information here.