Grief is one of the darkest emotions you can feel in your life, as there’s nothing else that compares to losing a loved one, either physically or emotionally. When you lose someone you love, that kind of darkness sticks with you for the rest of your lifetime. It’s one of the hardest emotions to heal from, and some people never go back to who they were before that experience of loss and mourning. There are five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Each one is difficult to handle, but it’s all part of moving forward. In this article, we’ll be discussing the five stages of grief and how to overcome each stage.
Five Stages of Grief And How to Overcome Them
When you first hit with the realization that they’re gone forever, and there’s no going back, you often deny this reality. Denial is the first of the five stages of grief that you’ll likely face when grieving the loss of a person. It’s only normal that you’ll want to deny everything you’re feeling, especially when the loss is overwhelming you too much. With an emotion as intense as grief, anyone would want to escape this kind of insufferable pain.
Denial is the first stage, as it’s much easier to deny what’s happening than it is to face the reality of a life without them. It softens the blow, and you deny that the grief isn’t bothering you or that you’re completely fine without them – even if you’re falling apart or on the verge of doing so. Instead of sitting with your feelings of grief, you deflect and use distractions to numb your emotions out. It’s not exactly healthy, but it’s something that every person who’s grieving has done.
How to overcome denial
1. Sit with your feelings
There’s no going around it, but you need to accept your feelings and deal with them to manage your denial. While this is a normal stage of grief, it can lead to several self-sabotaging habits to distract from the reality from which you’re trying to run away. At some point, you need to sit with your feelings and become self-aware to cope with the feeling of loss.
A simple practice to help you sit with your feelings is to practice a guided meditation for grief. You can download the Declutter The Mind meditation app to practice your meditation for ten minutes each day. The meditation isn’t going to make the pain more intense, but it also won’t make it vanish. Instead, you’ll permit yourself to feel what you feel– free of all judgment.
You can try a grief video below to help you practice sitting with your pain. Remember, by denying the pain now; you’ll only make the grief stronger later. You’re supposed to be in pain, you just lost someone you loved deeply.
2. Practice self-awareness tactics
Habits like journaling and practicing meditation can help you experience self-awareness and face your feelings the right way. While denial can be beneficial in handling your grief, all you’re doing is suppressing them until one day, all the grief you shut down will explode because you can’t take it anymore. That’s why repressed emotions are the worst of all, and that’s also why denial can be a dangerous stage of grief if you don’t know how to cope with it. You don’t need to talk to people about your grief right away, but you can at least practice some self-awareness tactics and be face your grief with yourself first. Admit that you’re grieving and that the loss hit you harder than expected – that’s an adequate first step to take.
3. Do things that force to face the reality
One of the hardest things to do when someone dies is going to their visitation. If you watched someone die a slow death, such as cancer, it could be a cold wake-up call to feel cold skin suddenly. Sometimes the mortician’s makeup doesn’t make the person look like themselves, so you want to deny it even more. However, giving yourself these wake-up calls that the person you’ve lost isn’t here anymore is what will help you out of this stage and onto the next one.
We’ve talked about how bad repressed emotions are, and one emotion that will overwhelm you when you face your new reality is anger. After you’ve experienced the denial stage of grief, you’re forced to now come to terms that they’re gone and are never coming back. Suddenly, you begin to fill up with so much anger and rage. It’s so important to learn how to manage anger.
You feel like the world is unfair, and you start questioning everything you’ve ever known. You question your beliefs about the world and yourself as maybe none of them are worth believing in anymore. You’re so angry that the one person you love was taken from you in an instant. No matter the cause of their death, grief is grief, and it’ll always be the kind of pain that destroys you and fills you up with so much anger.
In this stage of grief, you become fixed on the realization that life is unfair and the world is ugly, so there’s no point in doing anything anymore. These are the thoughts of someone who is feeling stuck in this particular stage of grief. This grief stage is also one of the most intense stages you can be stuck in, which is why it’s essential to know how to manage it.
How to overcome anger
1. Engage in physical activity
You might think this is a bit unusual, but your mind and body are deeply connected. When you’re feeling consumed by anger because of your grief, the only way out is to move your body and distract your thoughts, even just for a second. Whether it’s exercise, sports, or even running, physical activity can help reduce the level of anger you feel because of your loss. It might not change the situation or the facts, but it’s a healthier distraction than drinking or smoking. People do the most dangerous things when they’re angry, which is why it’s essential to develop good habits, such as exercise to let it flow out of you.
2. Realize you can’t control everything
One of the things that make you so angry is how you couldn’t get the outcome you wanted. Maybe you had a vision for how life was going to unfold, and life ruined your plans. You tried everything, and still, they were taken away from you in an instant. The death of a loved one is one of the instances that’s entirely out of your control. The earlier you realize this, the better you’ll be able to manage this stage of grief. Holding on to the realization that you can’t control everything can reduce your feelings of anger.
3. Cry it out
Sometimes, anger is just what we feel when we’ve been bottling up tears for a long time. We assume it’s because of feeling rage at a drunk driver who killed our loved one or doctor who didn’t do enough to save them. We might think that we don’t feel like crying. However, when something ends up triggering the actual emotion we feel, suddenly, the waterfalls come streaming down our faces. You can check out a guided meditation for anger or try this anger video to help you sit with your angry feelings during this stage of grief.
Bargaining is one of the stages of grief that gives you a false sense of control. Grief makes you the most vulnerable version of yourself, and bargaining involves an if-then scenario. If only you brought them to the hospital sooner, maybe they wouldn’t have died. Or, if you paid closer attention, then you would’ve recognized the signs of a serious illness. These are all thoughts of someone in the bargaining stage.
Even before they pass away, you bargain to a higher power thinking you can exchange your actions for saving their life. It’s a reflection of helplessness in wanting more time with them. More often than not, this is also the stage where you blame yourself for why they passed away. After you’ve passed anger, it gradually turns to self-blame without realizing it.
How to overcome bargaining
1. Accept the reality
If you want to manage this stage of grief, you need to realize that no amount of bargaining can bring them back or save them. This fact also means you should stop blaming yourself for a situation you have no control over. Every single person you love will eventually die. No matter how much you love them or care for them, you can’t exchange their life with a big good deed – life doesn’t work that way. The only way to cope with bargaining is to realize there’s nothing you could’ve done to save them, so stop blaming yourself.
2. Remind yourself you aren’t in control
The hardest part of grief is not controlling when and for long the people we love stay in our lives. There are no exceptions. You can’t ask the universe, “why me?” when your spouse or child dies because the fact is it’s not just happening to you. It’s happening to every single person multiple times in their lives. That’s a tough pill to swallow. There’s no such thing as order when it comes to death. You might die before or after your kids. You might get pregnant multiple times and miscarry every single one. You could lose your whole family in a car accident in a single day. Life is entirely random and out of your control.
Compared to the other stages of grief, this is more of the quiet phase. Depression feels numb and void of emotion, compared to anger and bargaining. It’s the stage of grief where you feel void of meaning, hope, fulfillment, and purpose. It’s the stage of grief people get stuck in for the longest, but it’s also the last stage before you get to acceptance.
How to overcome depression
Overcoming depression probably feels like the last thing you want to do, but it’s the most helpful in this scenario. Depression might not be as powerful as anger, but it’s strong enough to make you lose hope and purpose for living your life. Even if it’s the stage that comes before acceptance, it’s possible to feel stuck in this stage for a prolonged period without ever making it to acceptance.
Often, we feel guilt for not saving or doing enough to keep our loved ones close, so we punish ourselves in this stage of grief. We falsely believe that if we’re depressed, it’s because we deserve to be sad for losing someone. Death is not a good nor bad experience. It’s the experience we all have to journey to; it’s simply a part of the natural cycle of life. Many who have had near-death experiences have recalled that dying was a positive experience filled with inner peace. You don’t need to punish yourself with depression to prove that you loved someone.
Acceptance isn’t exactly a happy or optimistic stage. It doesn’t mean you healed from your grief, but it does mean you’ve accepted your grief for what it is. You’re no longer trying to escape your new reality, but instead, you’re trying to move forward with your grief and loss. You’ll still feel pain, but you won’t make it to be something that it isn’t. Once you’ve reached this stage of grief, you can practice a guided meditation for acceptance or try this acceptance video to help you accept this stage of grief.
Ways to manage acceptance
The only way to manage acceptance is to move forward. Since you’re no longer trying to deny your reality or aren’t feeling overwhelmed by anger or depression, you can attempt to move forward even with the loss and grief you feel. You can continue to heal from your grief but in a healthier and more self-aware manner. You manage acceptance by learning to adjust to a life without loved ones. You’ll still miss them every day, but it won’t be as all-consuming as before.
This article shed insight into everything you needed to know on the stages of grief. It’s not easy to deal with grief, but it’s necessary to go through all five stages of grief before you ultimately move forward. Grief is the most powerful emotion you can feel, and you can only heal from it once you’ve accepted it for what it is. With the help of meditation, you can practice experiencing and letting go of your emotions.