Bereavement counseling

Stages of Grief and Loss

Grief and loss are some of the most painful processes we endure throughout our lives. We might think grief sounds simple, but there are actually many different types of grief. The grieving process is commonly known as the “Five Stages of Grief,” but what do the five stages really mean? How do we know if we have worked through them? What happens if we don’t grieve

Types of Grief and Loss:

  1. Ambiguous loss

Ambiguous loss is a type of grief where you experience a loss without closure or understanding. In this type of a situation, the loss is sudden – you are unable to prepare or anticipate the loss, and it can be very traumatic. Ambiguous loss can lead to complicated grief, which is discussed later. Often, in this type of a situation, the person feels emotionally numb, or absent – physically there, but not emotionally. 

  1. Disenfranchised Grief

Disenfranchised grief is a type of loss that is often misunderstood or unacceptable to others; this type of grief is not traditionally recognized by others. Examples of disenfranchised grief are: the loss of a pet, a yearly trauma anniversary, the loss of a miscarriage, the loss of a friendship or engagement, etc. These losses are valid and painful, just like any other loss, but when we experience them, we often don’t receive adequate social support from friends and family, time off of work, etc. 

  1. Anticipatory Grief

Anticipatory grief is the grief that a person feels before a person is actually gone, such as the grief you feel when a loved one has a chronic illness, cancer, is terminally ill, etc. It is the grief of an impending loss. In this type of situation, we are preparing ourselves mentally for loss. 

Anticipatory grief can also occur when a child is diagnosed with an illness, developmental disorder, or other type of life-long impairment. In such a situation, the parents and family of the individual may be “preparing” themselves mentally, adjusting expectations and grieving the loss of what they “thought” life would be like for themselves and their child. 

  1. Delayed Grief

Delayed grief is when grief is not expressed at the time of the actual loss. When this happens, it often complicates the grieving process and can lead to complicated grief. Delayed grief can happen for a variety of reasons or circumstances. It can be conscious or unconscious, and is usually a type of defense mechanism – accompanying denial, repression, suppression of feelings, etc. 

  1. Complicated Grief

Complicated grief is what happens when a person does not grieve properly, whether consciously or unconsciously. This is a type of complication which develops as a consequence of poor grief management and is often accompanied by symptoms such as: depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, and physical illness. This is the type of grief that most commonly requires long-term therapeutic interventions. 

The Stages of Grief

According to Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, these are the Five Stages of Grief. It is important to know that not everyone experiences all five stages the same way, you may not experience the five stages in order, and it is normal to move “in and out” of the stages as you grieve – possibly even experiencing two to three stages at the same time

  1. Denial

In the denial stage of grief, the person often experiences shock and numbness. It is common to refuse to believe that the loss has happened, to belittle or minimize the event, or to ignore it completely. 

  1. Anger

In the anger stage of grief, the individual begins to feel fear, and rage. The death is acknowledged and the person has thoughts like, “Why me? Why now?” Oftentimes during this stage, people are angry at religious entities and question their faith.

  1. Bargaining

In this stage of grief, the individual will plead with the religious entities, bargaining for more time, or a postponement, etc. 

  1. Depression

In this stage, the person will acknowledge that death is unavoidable and final. They will feel hopeless, sorrow, sadness, and prepare for the final stage of grief.

  1. Acceptance

Finally, the individual reaches acceptance and accepts that the loss has happened and nothing can be changed. People do not feel happy or sad in this stage – often this stage is a feeling of nothingness, void of feelings. The pain and struggle of grieving is over, and the individual can slowly start to move forward.

Next Steps
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