The holidays are approaching and I can’t help but think about all of my loved ones that have passed away. This is the toughest time of the year for me as a therapist because I have to help my clients through their grieving while I tackle mine as well. This is a time of the year where I have to be aware of countertransference more than ever as I often see myself through the eyes of my grieving clients. As I help my clients move through the five stages of grief I like to challenge myself to see where I am in my own process. Take a look at the stages below.
Stage 1: Denial is the first stage in the grieving process. You experience an overwhelming feeling of shock and numbness. You begin to question if you can go on in life without this person, or even if life is worth continuing without this person. This is a tough state to be in but denial eventually brings forth strength. As you are forced to continue day by day, you began to pull strength from all of the resources around you. Ultimately making you stronger and resilient.
Stage 2: Anger is needed to heal during your loss. The more you allow yourself to feel the anger that arises the easier it is to have those emotions subside. When you hold back these feelings you are hindering the grieving process. Allow yourself to feel and express all of emotions that arise, even if its anger. Your anger may show up in different ways such as getting angry at someone for not showing up to the funeral, angry at a family member who you feel is acting different now that your loved one has passed, or being short tempered when someone brings up your loved one in conversation.
Stage 3: Bargaining or as I like to call it, the stage of “What if”. What if we would have caught the illness sooner, what if I didn’t let them leave they would not have got in a car accident, what if I was around or called more, what if, what if, what if! This stage causes you to find fault in yourself. Believing if you would have done something differently your loved one would still be alive.
Stage 4: Depression shows up as feelings of emptiness and withdrawing from others. This is when reality settles in and you begin to truly realize that your loved one is not returning. This stage of depression should not be confused with a mental diagnosis of depression as this is an important part of the process. Trust that this state is normal and necessary. I would be more concerned if your loved one passed and you weren't depressed. Though you may not want to, lean on all those friends and family members reaching out to you during this stage.
Stage 5: Acceptance is not to be confused with being “over” the fact that your loved one passed away. Instead, it’s understanding the fact that they are no longer physically present. We will never be truly okay with this new reality but we are able to accept it and find a way to move forward in our life. Over time we are able to live again and engage in relationships and and involve ourselves in old and new hobbies and interest.
Are you currently grieving a loved one? Take a look at the stages above and see where you are in your process. Be aware that though the stages are numbered we all experience grief in different orders and stages can present at different times. If you feel you are not grieving your loved one in a healthy manner search local grief groups in your area or reach out to a therapist for individual counseling.