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Loss and Grief: The 5 Key Stages of Loss Explained

 

Losing someone close to us is one of the hardest things we can go through as human beings, and yet is something that most of us will experience more than once in our lifetime. Bereavement affects everyone differently while there’s no real way you can prepare for the loss of a loved one, some people can take comfort in the fact that other people are going through similar feelings.


It’s easy to feel isolated and alone when dealing with grief but there are commonalities in the way people deal with loss. In fact, there are five key stages of loss that most people experience.
 


Denial and isolation

The first stage of grief is denial and isolation. Losing a loved one can seem so unreal and unjust that we often don’t want to come to terms with it at all, and so deny the reality of the situation to ourselves as a way to deal with the shock. Isolating ourselves also acts as a barrier against the outside world and the reality of our loss. Although it is natural to feel this way, letting a close friend or relative in to talk to you about how you’re feeling can be a vital part of coming to terms with your loss.


Anger

Many people experience anger after this. Anger that someone we loved had to be taken away, anger at other people for not understanding or not being able to help, and very often, anger at the person we have lost for dying and leaving us. Don’t feel guilty for feeling this way – it is natural and normal. Even if you are not an inherently angry person, dealing with such a drastic upheaval of your life can bring out unexpected emotions which we may not completely understand.


Bargaining

Bargaining often comes next, in which we try to make pacts with a higher power such as ‘if you bring them back, I’ll do anything’ or you may have thoughts such as ‘if only I had contacted a doctor sooner’. You will eventually realise that, as painful as it is, there is nothing you can do to change the situation.


Depression

Depression is the next most common stage of grief, in which we feel sadness and regret and need support and kindness from others. The realisation that your loved one has gone can be all-encompassing and affect every aspect of your life. While it is natural to feel this kind of extreme sadness, it’s important to seek medical help if you feel your depression is persistent or is hitting an unmanageable level. Signs to look out for are low motivation, suicidal thoughts, anxiety or feeling irritable. Everyone experiences depression differently but your feelings are enough to interfere with your work or family life, or if they persist for longer than a couple of weeks it’s advisable to seek professional help.


Acceptance

Finally comes acceptance. This doesn’t mean no longer caring about the person you have lost or that you won’t still miss them, it just means accepting the sad fact they have gone so that you can start thinking about living your life again. With acceptance can come the will to start getting your life back on track and celebrating the life your loved one lived rather than dwelling on the sadness of their passing.


Not everyone will go through these stages in the same order, and you shouldn’t feel as though you have to ‘work through’ the stages like a list, but it can help you to understand that what you’re going through is normal. The most important thing to remember is that you don’t have to go through your grieving process alone. Having a strong support network of friends and family can be vital to coming to terms with your grief, but there is also a variety of external support services available such as the Samaritans who are able to lend a sympathetic ear.


Seeking spiritual guidance in the form of psychic readings for example, can also be extremely beneficial to those who are looking for a deeper understanding of their loss and want gain some insight into to how they will cope in the future.
 

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