When we lose someone close to us, we experience various stages of grief. Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross described five stages of grief. Today, knowledgeable hospice workers have expanded them to 10. We should not look upon these 10 stages as a series of steps to go through one at a time, but more like a spiral staircase that goes up and down. Here are the 10 stages.
1. Shock. A sense of numbness characterizes this stage. To protect ourselves from the overpowering painful experience, we may shut down our emotional responses. This gives us the time we need to process the pain so that we can learn to understand and ultimately accept it in smaller doses. A sense of disbelief or denial often accompanies this stage.
2. Emotional Release. After being emotionally detached, we may feel a flood of pent-up emotions that we need to express and release once we begin to realize the full extent of our loss. These emotions are often extremely powerful. Fear, despair and anger are commonly associated with this stage. Being overly sensitive and venting our emotions are also typical reactions in this stage of the grieving process.
3. Depression and Isolation. The surge of emotions eventually flows into a deep depression and an overall feeling of loneliness, helplessness and isolation. People typically feel the need to be around others for support while also wanting to be alone, which creates confusion. The confusion often triggers a despair that envelops the grieving person. People may become extremely withdrawn during this stage.
4. Physical Illness. Emotional pain puts excess stress on the body. This stress weakens the immune system that can lead to illness. People who are grieving may experience physical pain, nausea and fatigue. Normal sleep patterns may also be affected, resulting in insomnia or excessive sleeping due to exhaustion.
5. Panic and Anxiety. Feelings of anxiety often accompany upcoming social situations after a loss. Trying to make sense of the loss can cause stress. We may feel abandoned, and the anxiety can lead to feelings of instability. These feelings are a normal part of the grieving process.
6. Anger and Hostility. When we experience pain, we may want to lash out at the people around us. We might blame those around us for causing the pain, and we may feel guilty for these outbursts of rage. The best course of action is acknowledging the anger.
7. Guilt. We commonly experience guilt when grieving. Focusing on negative memories and how our personal flaws affected that relationship will not change the situation. We may feel better after telling someone else about these thoughts and experiences.
8. Difficulty Resuming Normal Routines. A difficult aspect of healing is returning to our everyday life. If we are grieving, a song or scent can bring back painful memories, triggering a potential relapse in the recovery cycle. It can take a long time to transition into a normal routine because we have changed because of the experiences we have gone through.
9. Hopefulness. Hope surfaces when we take the initiative to reach out and look to the future. Through daily routines, despair begins to fade away. We accept the changes we need to find happiness and satisfaction in life again. Our painful memories begin to become a part of the past and we learn to be present to the moment so we can move forward with confidence.
10. Acceptance and Moving Forward. Gradually we learn to fully accept the changes that have occurred. We realize that we can become comfortable with our new role in life. We begin to feel strengthened and renewed because of our experiences. The process has revitalized our energy and our sense of self is restored after accepting our transformed identity.