GOOD GRIEF! ~ Stages and Types of Grief After Loss
There appear to be certain common elements to the way most of us grieve. This can be comforting to recognize that what we are feeling is ‘normal’ when in comparison with other people’s journey, though often excruciating to actually endure.
Many of us will recall Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’s work from our school days. Learning about the ‘Stages of Grief”, or DABDA as I recall the acronym from 8th grade, I was able to relate the cycle of “Denial – Anger – Bargaining – Depression – and Acceptance” to many of my losses as a youth and as an adult. Beyond my grandfather dying, I could even place my emotions on this grief cycle after a set-back on my academic path, when a pet died, when I got divorced and after I failed a business!
Not always a linear journey moving from denial to acceptance in a sequential order, I’ve personally found that it feels more like a dance. One step forward, two steps back. It is sometimes frustrating to move through a certain stage, feel accomplished that I’m nearing the end goal, then have a set-back and feel the need to readdress a challenge I thought I had already worked through two stages ago… Have you ever felt like this after a loss?
In recent years, many psychologists and grief counselors have adapted this 5-stage model to add two additional considerations: ‘Shock’ (initial emotional paralysis) and ‘Testing’ (seeking solutions).
In addition to STAGES, there are also TYPES of grief. Have you ever mourned the loss of a person and that person hasn’t even died yet? Called “anticipatory grief”, this is actually quite common in the face of a ‘terminal’ prognosis, meaning that the doctor has said ‘we cannot cure you (or your loved one); you will die of this disease but we will help you be comfortable’. Mourning the pending absence of their giggle, your heartfelt conversations, sharing of birthday celebrations, or that they won’t be there for their grandson’s graduation are all forms of anticipatory grief.
Lung cancer patients, and their families, may also feel a sense of “disenfranchised grief”. Due to the frequently felt stigma of people’s perceptions being that lung cancer has to be caused by decades of smoking and that the patient ‘brought it on himself’, patients and families frequently feel like their loss or pending loss is insignificant or not validated. People dealing with the aftermath of other stigmatized deaths (suicide, HIV/AIDS, overdose, miscarriage, for example), or people somehow removed from the patient (ie: a grandparent, an ex-spouse, a co-worker, a same-sex partner, etc) might also feel as though the very real pain that they are experiencing is not recognized as significant and valid by others.
When one loss is piled on top of other losses, we can experience “cumulative grief”, as well. Have you suffered a second loss before you felt like you were finished grieving the first? Do bad things seems to be coming in 3s for you, as the saying goes? Have you lost a relationship with your in-laws or grandchildren when your adult child died, and this is compounding your grief you feel for the death of your child? Grief overload can take you to overwhelming and debilitating depths of emotional turmoil if you are unable to move through the normal processes of grief.
I just love this meme I came across last week (original source unknown):
Experiencing grief after loss is normal. Acknowledging your grief and making the time and effort to ‘recognize and work through it’ are seen as important pieces of the healing process. The blog and healing information found on the website WYG.com (What’s Your Grief) is exceptional, in my opinion ~ you may just see yourself in the heartfeltfully produced educational pieces, touching words, and the personal stories likely oddly similar to yours. I hope that someday you will again smile and find joy again in your memories rather than the overwhelming sense of loss that you may currently be feeling. Here’s to YOU!
RESOURCES: https://whatsyourgrief.com/types-of-grief/, https://whatsyourgrief.com/, https://whatsyourgrief.com/anticipatory-grief/, https://whatsyourgrief.com/disenfranchised-grief/, https://whatsyourgrief.com/cumulative-grief-aka-grief-overload/, https://study.com/academy/lesson/what-are-the-stages-of-dying-overview-of-kubbler-rosss-5-stages.html, https://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=https://dz9yg0snnohlc.cloudfront.net/new-understanding-the-stages-of-grief-1.png&imgrefurl=https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/grief/understanding-the-stages-of-grief/&h=901&w=1200&tbnid=-2PKlB5kOgoUmM:&q=7+stages+of+grief&tbnh=160&tbnw=213&usg=AI4_-kS01G-3xzI_UivEyN22bDbawzH8TQ&vet=12ahUKEwj1yrSx99veAhWjSt8KHcsQDCsQ9QEwAHoECAUQBg..i&docid=0nByPD4LdWbqIM&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwj1yrSx99veAhWjSt8KHcsQDCsQ9QEwAHoECAUQBg, https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/grief/understanding-the-stages-of-grief/, and https://www.recover-from-grief.com/7-stages-of-grief.html