Based on the Kubler-Ross Model of Grief there are 5 stages of grief, which can be experienced in any order. Most people fluctuate between denial, anger, depression and bargaining. Keep in mind that grief isn’t just when someone you know and love dies. It is any change in circumstance that causes extreme difficulty and it isn’t always a bad event in life. This can be moving to a new city, starting a new job, getting married/divorced, having a baby, having chronic health issues, etc.
Complex grief is when the “acceptance” phase is never achieved, usually because there are unresolved traumas with the person that has passed on, or a situation/event that need to be resolved.
The only constant in life is change, and when we learn how to become resilient and adapt to change, life seems a lot less difficult and scary.
In the first outline of Denial, the person is holding a belief that what they are being told is wrong. They are holding on to a different reality.
What a person may say: “No that’s crazy…that can’t be true!”
What to do about it: Make the case for changes. Be a part of the discovery towards things that will have to change. Take new perspectives on how things could play out with these changes is a positive way.
In the second description of Anger, the person faced with a new reality is looking to someone to blame or lash out at.
What a person may say: “You don’t understand what it’s like”, or “you don’t know what you’re talking about.”
What to do about it: Involve yourself in the discovery and planning so you don’t feel like a victim of an outside agent of change.
With the Depression stage of grief, the person has resigned to a new fate, but has settled into the sadness and is unable to move forward.
What a person may say: “It’s just not the same as it used to be”, or “I don’t know how I can go on.”
What to do about it: Ensure the vision of the future is positive. Focus not on what is lost, but on what the positive outcomes could be.
During the Bargaining stage, the person will seek to get out of facing the new reality by promising something, usually to change or seek reform.
What a person may say: “If I just listened more, they would still be here today.” or “If we just cut costs, the business will get better!”
What to do about it: Understand that while you can shape your destiny, we can’t deny things will change or try to make decisions that make us invincible from these changes.
Finally, with the Acceptance stage, the person is able to embrace the new reality and finality of what has truly happened.
What a person may say: “We can’t stop change”, or “Life goes on.”
What to do about it: Reach and gain satisfaction on the possible newfound positive outcomes. Reflect on the new roles and take ownership of the future once again.
In the moment when you are in pain from grief, allow yourself that time to feel whatever it is that you feel. Being vulnerable in your feelings is very courageous and it is much more beneficial to feel it all than to try to hide it because it will come out later in your health if you don’t address your emotions.
If you are sad, don’t be afraid to cry. Crying releases toxins and clears that emotion stuck in the body, it has been highly stigmatized as being “weak” for crying, but actually strength comes from allowing things to flow so it can be released and not held within your body to come back and scream at you later.
If you are angry, use that energy constructively (I personally clean like a madwoman, or will work out intensely). Anger is a secondary emotion to fear and sadness, so working through your anger will help you discover if you are sad or afraid of something that is going to be different.
If you are in denial or shock, try writing your feelings out so you can begin to process the idea of a new reality and don’t forget to include your fears, reasons to not believe it, and hopes in what you can achieve if that reality is true.
If you are in the bargaining stage, make sure you aren’t blaming yourself for everything and talk to yourself like you would talk to a family member or good friend because I’m sure you would not blame them for their decisions. Be kind to yourself always, because you are doing the best you can.