Life After Loss
'They' say there are four stages to Grief:
First there is Denial/Disbelief, the "I can't believe it has happened" stage. Here, the individual may struggle to interact socially, completely overwhelmed by their numbness and shock. This is where Ritual (the funeral, viewing the body) plays a very important role.
Then follows Pain and Distress, the "Why has this happened to me?" stage. It is now that the individual acknowledges the reality of their loss but feels anger and guilt for not being able to change it. This may manifest itself in physical ways such as crying, sleeplessness and loss of appetite or over-eating. Typically the individual will go 'searching' for the dead person, looking for them in familiar places or finding them in other people. Any kind of social contact can be a painful reminder of their loved one and a stark reminder of their changed social status.
Partial Accommodation of the Loss is the third stage, the "It has happened to me" stage. This stage is all about trying to find meaning from the loss. An individual going through this stage may suffer from depression and seem apathetic, listless and lacking in purpose. Much like the previous stage, they may be coming to grips with their new status of being e.g. a widow rather than a wife. It may be helpful for them to consider joining groups where they can feel a part of something and no longer 'on their own.'
Acceptance of the loss is said to be the final phase of the cycle. At this point the individual has been able to find some degree of purpose and fulfilment in both old and new relationships. They may seem much more 'like themselves' physically, displaying far less of the symptoms seen in Stage 2 and Stage 3. It is now that they are able to move from the 'why' of the death to the 'how' of living.
But as any of us who have ever lost a loved one will know, no matter how much you try to move on, the pain never really goes away. George Shelley (musician and presenter who lost his sister) describes grief as being like 'glitter' - no matter how hard you try to tidy it up, little fragments remain.
Yet it is important to remember that there is help and support out there. Navigating your way through this pain and loss might feel like you have been parachuted into a strange land where you have no map and don't know the language but you do not have to find your way out alone. It might feel impossible (at least right now), to speak to friends or family members also grieving the loss of the loved one, but perhaps it could be helpful to seek the services of a professional. Someone who can acknowledge, understand, and hold, both physically and emotionally. Someone who will walk with you as you journey through your grief.
Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you feel we could help, or for further resources that might be of interest, I highly recommend CRUSE Bereavement Care (www.cruse.org.uk) or if dealing with a child who has lost a loved one, Childhood Bereavement Network (www.childhoodbereavementnetwork.org.uk).