Death is a part of every life. It can come out of nowhere or be a prolonged process. Many people handle death of loved ones in many unique ways but it appears that there is a general model that summarizes up the process of grief in stages that the majority of mourners all follow.
According to oxforddictionaries. com, the definition of grief is deep sorrow, especially that caused by someone’s death. The foundation of this idea was built from the perspective that when grieving a loss, people seem to demonstrate characteristics similarly to others facing the same situation. Using the classification of these stages proves to be very beneficial in aiding mourners in learning how to cope their loss. This however isn’t the 5 stages of grief eloquently described by the famous psychiatrist elisabeth Kubler – Ross. Those stages cover the actual individual going through the death process. This paper will cover the 6 stages of grief that family and friends go through and learn how to accept losing a person they love. These stages are death, denial, numbness, “ the pit”, disorientation, and resolution. The steps usually follow in that order and accurately describe the levels of grief a person maybe going through.
Many people actually confuse these steps with the Kubler-ross model. Ross’ model was developed first in her book On Death and Dying in 1969 . These stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. Since then has added two more steps. Many papers, articles and websites all confuse this with any grievance from a loss. They will use the same model for things like loss of relationship or loss of personal items. They aren’t fully understanding that the kubler ross model refers to the person that is actually dying. Instead they should be following the 6 stages listed above for grief. These are the stages you’re more likely going to go through if you have lost someone in your life.
Dr. John Canine was the first highly reliable source to explain and develop these stages. Canine is a grief expert and counselor along with a notable history as an author, public speaker and educator. He also is the CEO of Maximum living consultants incorporated. His theory and detailed work in these stages have even made their way into Wayne State University’s own mortuary science program. Canine stresses that all of these stages; death, denial, numbness, “the pit”, disorientation, and resolution all happen in one form or another during a grief period.
Stages of Grief Upon Someone’s Death
This first stage seems rather simple and easy to understand at first. Death is the ultimate end for everyone and there has yet to be any exception to that rule yet. Death is very important to the aspect of life as a whole. Without death, life doesn’t seem to have a harmonious connection with our reality. Some argue that without death, life never actually exists. It is was completes the cycle of life so that it can start again. When experiencing the loss of a loved one the initial impact can be traumatizing, shocking, or even scary. Sometimes there might not even be a reason if it happened suddenly. Many people probably don’t really even process the extent to which death means at the time. A lot of times this can even be a result of poor education on death itself since the idea still seems to still be partially taboo for society. This is the initial part of grief and in many ways can be the most physically affecting. Shaking, crying, passing out, vomiting have all been reported as common reactions when first knowledge of a loved one passes. This stage actually usually is the shortest in length. Canine says that this stage could last only a few seconds. The initial impact can be a lot to process and this is the first step as someone’s mental state starts to sink as the grieving process commences.
Denial is the most unique stage. It is hard to fully grasp what death entails because it is so unknown. Obviously we know what death is and understand what it means in the physical world but for the most part nobody has fully experienced death and lived to tell the tail. So in such a state of shock and disbelief from what has happened we simply don’t process the implications of death. Our brains start to try and talk us into thinking that everything is gonna be ok. That death isn’t permanent. It is hard to get over something that you rationalize in your head as not actually happening. The interesting part is that even though before a death we can be totally aware of this but still show these exact signs of denial when it occurs. It is a fighting mechanism in your brain that is more than likely trying to protect you subconsciously from facing something that can be too overwhelming to endure. This can actually be beneficial for short periods of time as your brain adjusts and process the event . Denial can be a bad thing however, when it lasts longer than it should. This stage can go on for a very long time, even months to years in some cases. This emotionally can break a person. It can mess with their reality and even potentially confuse them with what actually happened. Denial also could prevent people from getting the help they need. If they don’t accept that something bad has happened then they refuse to think they need emotional support. This can be true for any sorts of denial. People with severe illness and refusing to go into the hospital thinking they can just overcome the sickness on their own. This often becomes a major issue for that individual and their condition gets worse because of it.
It can be very easy to mix up actual denial and what is called avoidance. As Dr. Canine explains an example in his writing of two brothers walking into a funeral for their father. The one brother although accepts that his father has passed, will refuse to think about it. This is avoidance. The person doesn’t want anything to do with the idea. They probably don’t want conversation about it, or any memory as it will result in emotional pain for that individual. The difference is that denial is that the person actually believes that the person isn’t dead. In Canine’s example, the other brother is standing there looking at his father in the casket and still refuses to believe that it is real. An individual going though this might even claim they are dreaming and will wake up and everything will be ok.
The numbness stage of grief can be hard to explain. It is the feeling of nothingness after someone they loved died. The most obvious comparison is depression. This also could be considered the second shock in the grief process. It follows right after denial which makes sense because the individual finally starts to process the event. They realize that it actually did happen. This realization could set the person into a shocked state. Not really sure where to go from there and how to proceed. People in this stage start to show less energy and their thoughts tend to be extremely apathetic towards anything. Dr. Canine explains that the numbness stage might be the reason people can even get through that first week during the funeral and other events. They might go through the funeral and procession with not so much as a change in facial expression. Other symptoms do result from this. Chronic tiredness is a common characteristic. Chronic tiredness is when a person always feels tired and no matter how much sleep they get they won’t feel any differently. Another glaring symptom is weight loss. Beginning signs of depression show here as well. People with show no interest in things they once enjoyed greatly while in this stage.
The “pit” is the fourth stage in this process. Also referred to as the searching phase. This is the stage that mostly resembles the signs of depression. Depression is described by oxforddctionaries.com as feelings of severe despondency and dejection. In a more simple description, depression can be described as great sadness, a lot of times unexplainable and unmanageable, that usually leaves the person always feeling emotionally empty and apathetic. Many symptoms can arise from this stage. According to WebMD.com, symptoms of depression include feelings of hopelessness or guilt, insomnia, decreased sexual function, decreased appetites, fatigue, thoughts of suicide, and restlessness. All of these symptoms can be debilitating for someone going through it and it is more important than ever for people to try and help in bringing this person back to themselves. This is the lowest emotional state a person will be in in the grieving process. The correct kind of therapy has been able to do to incredible things in healing mental wounds. This is why learning about these stages and being able to identify what stage a person is in is so useful. Any kind of counselor, therapist, funeral director that works with family members or even just friends and family all can use this knowledge to know when someone might need a lot of help.
Disorientation is the second to last stage. This stage is the most crucial part of recovery during the grief process. During this stage, Canine explains that really the individual has two options. They can look ahead to the future for better days, not forgetting the past but accepting that it has been written, or they can choose to never let go. This is when grieving can become very dangerous and unhealthy. This negative choice will pull the individual into a new mindset. They’ll ask “what is the point of moving on”? They might think why bother caring anymore using phrases like “everyone is just going to die anyways so life has no meaning”. These phrases are signs of severe pathological depression and often times lead to suicide. Canine mentions how this happens a lot with the elderly. There are many stories all the time about when someone from a very old couple dies, usually the other partner dies soon after. This seems to be from complete heart break and the person just doesn’t have a will to live anymore. What this stage is about is learning how to move on. To be able to look back on the past, accept what has happened, but continue to move forward. Reminiscing can be a good thing when appropriately done but don’t dig yourself into a negative remission of your recovery in the process.
The final stage is referred to as resolution. Resolution can only be achieved once the individual in grief has let go from the past. They aren’t holding onto any of the previous guilt or depressing thoughts. Letting go is the start of healing. The best way to manage this, Dr. Canine says is to set goals. Setting goals that are reasonable and personal to you and then achieving these goals will give any survivors the confidence to move on. These goals could be literal or symbolic of the relationship you once had with the person now deceased. Creating a life without the person that is more unique to you is important. It shows growth. It shows recovery. These are all things that need to be achieved in order for complete recovery. In my opinion, the hardest ones to do this are usually the spouse of the deceased. Living a life that could feel bare or lonely because your partner is gone can be very hard. Learning how to create a new life without that person and doing your own thing can be very healthy. This isn’t suggesting that what you should do is to forget that person. No, in fact you should fully respect that individual but what it means is that Life has to go on. That Life as you know it will forever be changed and you’re going to have to change with it or you could crumble.
Grieving will most likely be involved with everyone’s life at some point. Understanding these stages can be useful in going through it yourself or helping a loved one who needs some support to recover. Feeling grief as an emotion is a fundamental part of what makes being a human so human. Author Tom Attig once wrote “Grieving is a journey that teaches us how to love in a new way now that our loved one is no longer with us. Consciously remembering those who have died is the key that opens the hearts, that allows us to love them in new ways.” I think that quote beautifully describes growth. It shows that even the the grieving process can be challenging, the lessons we learn and acceptance we gain allow us to evolve into new versions of ourselves. Learning how to love and celebrate the past without it hindering us. These six stages; death, denial, numbness, “ the pit”, disorientation, and resolution, all pose chances to learn and to grow. Death is inescapable as of right now but dwelling on the negative implications of that is only hindering you. Celebrating life and everything it has to offer, including death, can be a remarkable feeling. It leads to a better future. It leads to self-worth and confidence. Grief and death should be taken very seriously. You should allow time for grieving. Nothing has a legitimate quick fix. Time is your best friend in these situations and allowing enough time will heal all mental wounds surging you through tough times and coming out a new person.