At some point in our lives, each of us will experience grief. Grief is an adjustment period that happens after any significant loss. We may experience grief from the loss of a family member or friend, the loss or death of a pet, a change in our health or even from a significant financial loss. Although unbelievable pain and anguish may accompany grief, grief is actually a healing process.
Grief is a unique experience, meaning that no two people grieve in the same way or at the same rate. However, we do know something about the process of grief. Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross defined 5 stages of grief. Those stages are Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance.
In the denial stage we are in a fog. We don’t believe the loss has actually happened. “It is just a bad dream”.
When we move into the anger stage we may blame others, including God, for our loss. We might even question many of our core beliefs.
The next stage is bargaining. We may bargain with God to take the pain away or bring back our loved one. “If I go to church every Sunday or volunteer to feed the poor, I will regain my old life.”
In the fourth stage, depression, we feel extreme sadness, isolation and numbness. This stage often happens long after the rest of the people in our lives feel we have or should have moved on.
The final stage is acceptance and it is the point where depression and anger diminish and we can more easily tolerate our new reality.
Grief does not usually progress through these stages in a straight line. Instead grief takes a circular feedback course. You may pass into the depression stage only to find yourself angry again. Over time the stages when you feel denial, anger, bargaining and depression diminish and the periods of time where you experience acceptance and peace lengthen. Sometimes people get stuck in one of the first four stages. This is called complicated grief. Complicated grief prolongs the pain and inhibits the gift of healing. It is important to seek help if you feel you are having difficulty managing the grief process. Individual counseling and grief support groups can help you navigate the grieving process and emerge with the gift of acceptance and peace. In counseling grief work involves facing your loss and the emotions that accompany it in a safe, accepting environment. It is the fastest and most effective way toward healing, a deeper understanding of self and a new life.
At a young age Carleen Newsome, MA, LAPC, NCC experienced tremendous grief and loss when both her parents died. She spent many years with complicated grief before she was able to experience the full healing gift of grief. She passionately enjoys working with adults and children as they struggle with loss. She finds joy in celebrating the milestones as people discover their own healing gifts on the road to acceptance and peace.
Carleen Newsome, MA
Licensed Associate Professional Counselor
Summit Staff Associate Therapist