A young woman comforts friend coping with grief

What are the Stages of Grief? A Guide to Coping with Loss

Grief is a normal response to losing someone or something. The overwhelming feelings can sometimes bring on unexpected experiences of emotions, shock, anger, disbelief, guilt, and sadness. Sometimes your physical health can be affected by making it difficult to eat, sleep, or think clearly. 

Knowing how to cope with grief can be difficult. Everyone has their own process for how they can go through grief. However, there are a few commonalities that everyone goes through. 

Dana Group offers individual and family therapy. If you or your children are experiencing grief and need help coping with the overwhelming emotions, therapists at Dana Group can help. With offices in Needham, Norwell, and Hanover, you can schedule an appointment with one of our many mental health providers at a time and location that is convenient for you. 

Ready to get help with your grief journey? Contact us to get started.

What Can Cause Grief?

Although a death of a loved one is the most commonly known cause of grief, any loss can cause grief. The most common causes of grief can include:

  • Death
  • Divorce or relationship breakup
  • Loss of health
  • Losing a job
  • Loss of financial stability
  • A miscarriage
  • Retirement
  • A loved one’s serious illness
  • Loss of a friendship
  • Selling a family home

Even small changes within one’s life can trigger a sense of grief such as moving, graduating, or changing jobs. Each loss is personal and must be coped with differently. Whatever the cause of your grief, it’s important to remember there are healthy ways to cope with that pain that will allow your sadness to ease and help you move on with your life.

What are the Different Kinds of Grief?

Although grief can have some expected symptoms such as sadness or guilt, some types of grief fall outside of the “normal” grief. As each person experiences loss differently, it’s hard to label their grief as “normal” or “abnormal.” However, three types of grief can better identify the kind of grief you are experiencing.

Anticipatory Grief

Anticipatory grief can be caused by anticipating a loss.  For example, you may experience grief due to a loved one’s terminal illness. You may start experiencing the grieving process before the actual event of a loss. Like conventional grief, anticipatory grief can cause a mix of confusing emotions. Still, it can give you a chance to prepare for your loss and resolve any unfinished business.

Disenfranchised Grief

Disenfranchised grief can occur when your loss is devalued, stigmatized, or can’t be mourned openly. Some people can experience this for losing a pet, job, or friendship. Since your grief is not recognized, it can become harder to talk openly about your pain and become more challenging to navigate the grieving process.

Complicated Grief

Complicated grief can cause symptoms of conventional grief to last longer and affect daily life and relationships. This type of grief can typically arise after the death of a loved one, and you may be unable to accept that your loved one is gone. It’s important to reach out for support and take steps to heal when facing complicated grief.

Are you struggling with grief that doesn’t seem to get better? Speak with one of our therapists. 

What are Popular Myths About Grief That are False?

Grieving is an individual journey. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. How you grieve depends on factors such as your personality, coping style, life experiences, faith, and how significant the loss is to you. Here are a few myths surrounding grief and the honest answer to them.

  • The pain will fade faster if you ignore it. Ignoring your pain can have long-term effects that can continue to surface if it’s not faced and dealt with.
  • You have to “be strong” when facing loss. Feelings of sadness and fear are normal reactions to loss. Showing your true feelings can help your family and yourself.
  • If you don’t cry, you aren’t sorry about the loss. Although crying is a normal reaction to sadness, some people may deal with their pain differently.
  • Grieving only lasts a year. There is no specific timeline for how long grief can last. It depends on how a person copes with loss.
  • Moving on with your life means you forget about your loss. Moving on with your life means that you’ve accepted your loss and not that you’ve forgotten about it.

What are the Stages of Grief?

There are five common stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Many people feel any of these emotions at any given time.

It’s important to note that not everyone goes through these stages when grieving. They probably won’t be experienced in sequential order if you do. Some people don’t go through every step, and others may experience them more than once.

Some emotional symptoms of grief could include:

  • Shock and disbelief because it’s hard to accept what has happened. This can cause you to feel numb and may even deny the truth.
  • Sadness is the most common symptom of grief. You may cry more than normal or feel emotionally unstable.
  • Guilt can come from several factors, like things you did or didn’t say. You may feel you didn’t do enough, even if the loss is entirely out of your control.
  • Fear can arise from worries and fears that may also be associated with anxiousness, helplessness, or uneasiness about the future.
  • Anger can arise if you are upset about the situation and want to find someone at fault.

Physical symptoms of grief can also arise while dealing with overwhelming emotions. Sometimes coping can lead to fatigue, nausea, lowered immunity, weight loss or gain, aches and pains, and insomnia.

How to Cope with Grief

Although every person’s grief journey is individualized and unique, there are a few common ways to help cope with your loss. Some factors can help when dealing with grief:

  • Acknowledging your pain.
  • Accept that grief can be triggered differently and cause unexpected emotions.
  • Understand that your grieving process is unique to you.
  • Seek out support from people who care about you.
  • Support yourself emotionally by focusing on hobbies and your physical health.
  • Recognize the difference between grief and depression.

During your grieving process, it’s essential to reach out to people. Turn to friends and family or look for professional help with a therapist or a grief counselor. It’s also important to accept that opening up about your feelings may feel awkward but essential for coping. Other ways to get help could include joining a support group or drawing comfort from your faith.

During this complicated process, don’t forget that taking care of your emotional and physical health is essential. With time, the goal is for you to face your emotions and express your feelings in healthy ways.  You may feel emotionally drained from this process. Strive to maintain your hobbies, prioritize your physical health, and spend time with people you feel safe and at ease with.

It also helps to plan for grief “triggers.” Emotions can be reawakened during anniversaries, holidays, and important milestones. This is a normal reaction, so making sure that you’re doing something you care about and being with loved ones can help on these challenging days.

Speak With a Therapist About Your Grief 

Grief can be tough to deal with on your own. Dana Group can offer multiple mental health professionals to help with the grieving process for you or your family. 

Ready to focus on getting through your grief? Schedule an appointment with us.