The Face of Grief

Sad and upset woman deep in thought

The problem with putting a face to grief is that grief is different for every person. Grief molds and changes with time, along with the person experiencing it. They say there are five stages of grief, but what do they look like? How do you recognize them?

The five stages of grief are associated with psychiatrist, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. It is important to note that not every person will experience every stage, nor does it mean that a person goes from one stage to the next. Experiencing these stages of grief can occur in any order.

Denial, Numbness, and Shock: “This isn’t happening. This can’t be happening.”

When the initial shock of grief first hits, the intensity can be debilitating. An individual may deny the situation at first to protect themselves from the overwhelming emotions. They may experience numbness, which should never be misconstrued as “not caring.” The shock eventually wears off, and so does the disbelief; however, initially many individuals can’t bring themselves to believe the situation for what it is. The emotions are too overpowering to deal with all at once.

Bargaining: “I’ll do anything to bring them back.”

Many people who experience this stage of grief find themselves dwelling on thoughts of what could have been done to prevent the loss. Guilt is a common feeling that pervades day-to-day life, and it’s not uncommon for an individual to feel a sense of responsibility for the loss they are experiencing.

Depression: “This sadness and pain will never end.”

When reality sets in, and the full extent of the loss seeps in, depression can overtake you. Loneliness, isolation, emptiness, and wallowing are all common feelings. Physical symptoms include sleep pattern disruption (problems sleeping or problems with extensive sleeping), appetite issues, lack of energy, lack of motivation, or even lack of concentration. While experiencing depression, it often feels like you will never surface from the depression that is weighing you down, that there is no end in sight.

Acceptance: “I’m at peace, and I’m moving forward with my life.”

This stage of grief doesn’t mean that you’re happy-go-lucky and that you’ve “moved on.” This stage is when an individual has accepted the loss, and has come to terms with the feelings surrounding the loss. Many experience feelings of peace and even resolution with the situation.

Grief impacts each of us differently. Sometimes we experience all of these stages, and sometimes we experience the same stage multiple times. There is no one way to grieve. Grief wears many faces.

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