We go through the same kinds of emotions when we are hit by a tragedy like the loss of a loved one. These five stages were first written about in the book "On Death and Dying" by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in 1969.
But unlike what you might have thought, the stages don't have to follow a particular order. However, it is important to go through all the stages in full to avoid any unresolved issues. Each stage needs time, and that varies from one person to another.
The importance of these stages is to help you know what you are going through at that time in your grieving process. And there is no right way to go about it.
1. Denial and Isolation
When most people get devastating news, they deny it. Nobody wants to accept that a loved one has passed on, or has been diagnosed with a terminal illness, or experienced another harsh cruelty of life. Most people think, "That can't possibly happen."
The denial serves a role, as it helps someone avoid the shock that would come with accepting such devastating news. As they absorb the reality, people find no meaning in life and try to isolate themselves. But what's happening is that they are going through a lot of pain.
After the denial has worn off, and the desire for isolation is gone, the pain of what happens takes effect. The feelings are expressed as anger. The anger can be directed at anyone, including objects and people such as friends and family.
The anger can also be directed towards the loved one who has just passed on. The reason for the blame is that they are the reason for the pain we feel.
So, the anger brings with it guilt, and that only adds to the anger. The important thing is that the person going through this takes an appropriate amount of time to deal with the anger.
During the bargaining stage, the person is usually trying to take back control. This is necessary after all the feelings of helplessness that come with facing such a difficult reality of life. The person will often wonder: "if only we had tried harder." "I wish we were more supportive during that difficult period in his life."
However, all this is an attempt to avoid the pain. It is not much of a defense either. But it does help resolve some guilty feelings the situation might have caused.
Depression during grief comes in two forms. First, there is depression connected to the impact the loss will bring. This depression comes with sadness and regret. It includes worries about how the burial will take place and the costs it will involve. Cooperation can help ease this kind of depression.
Then there is the depression of having to say goodbye to a loved one for good. This depression is a little more personal, but a hug can help.
Not everyone gets here. Some people never truly accept that someone they loved so much is gone for good. During this stage, there is some withdrawal and calmness. The person is not depressed, but they are not happy either. This is the same period aging and terminally ill loved ones seem to go through. They accept the harsh realities bearing down on them. With dignity and acceptance, they act in a way that lets those who care about them remember them with dignity.