Whether it’s in a group setting or a one-on-one session with a counselor, talking about the death of a loved one can be essential to healing. We tend to avoid discussing loss until after we experience it for ourselves. When someone close to us dies we often experience a range of emotions, not just sadness.
First, let’s talk about the five classic stages many of us will go through when learning to live without someone. In the groundbreaking book On Death and Dying (1969), Elizabeth Kubler-Ross described the stages of grief, which have since been widely accepted in the mental health field.
These phases can occur in any order and don’t necessarily affect everyone nor represent the full spectrum of the grieving process. However, they provide a guide to help recognize what you or a loved one may be going through when in mourning.
- Denial: Imagining a preferable reality, rejecting what’s happened.
- Anger: Asking questions like “Why me?” or “Why would God let this happen?” often erupt in frustration, rage and erratic behavior.
- Bargaining: Trying in vain to change reality by negotiating with God or a higher power. “What if I devote the rest of my life to helping others. Then can I wake up and realize this has all been a bad dream?” Guilt often follows after the truth sets in and the fantasy deals dissolve.
- Depression: Emptiness and withdrawal characterize this stage of grief. After pain breaks through avoidance responses, the present moment can feel like a soul-crushing, never-ending now. Remember depression is a normal part of the grieving process and is NOT a sign of mental illness.
- Acceptance: Acknowledging the death of a loved one without necessarily having to “feel ok” about it. People who are in the process of dying may experience this before their survivors.
If you or a loved one is experiencing any of these stages of grief, even before a loved one passes away, consider counseling.
Here are 3 reasons why sharing your grief with others can be comforting.
Discovering you’re not alone
A grief support group can connect you with people who have experienced a similar loss. Discussing your story with others in a judgment-free, safe space can alleviate feelings of isolation and abandonment. Being around people who “get it” can make all the difference when others in your life don’t seem to understand. Listening to others’ stories can be equally as beneficial during the healing process. One-on-one talk therapy will help in similar ways but without the camaraderie you get in a group environment.
Mourning takes time. But you can better understand how to deal with the rollercoaster of emotions that can feel like a 10-ton weight on your heart. From remembering to eat well when you don’t have an appetite to celebrating the life of the one you lost with new traditions, learn different grief strategies to help with both short-term and long-term issues you may encounter.
Increased understanding of loss
Grief can be a life-long journey for some and a moment in time for others. But after you begin working through your own pain, you will likely have a better understanding of how and why we all grieve. As in the acceptance phase, learning to live without someone may never feel right to you. But working through the process can you and perhaps allow you to help someone else in the future.
Facing your grief and sharing it with others can seem scary when you’re already feeling vulnerable. But remember that taking action is the first step in combating feelings of hopelessness. And don’t set any timetable for “getting over it.” Dealing with death is often difficult. But it’s also an essential part of living.
Don’t forget that there is help available. Take the first step and get in touch.