This is the second part of a 3-part blog series on grief. In the first post, I talked about 5 unexpected ways in which grief can show up. If you haven’t read it already you can read it here.
In this post I will be talking about the 3 stages of grief according to Therese A. Rando. While this post is focuses on the death of a loved one, the phases apply to any kind of loss.
Enduring a loss is likely the most challenging thing we go through as humans. At some point or other, we all deal with loss at different points in our lifetime. Whether it is death of a loved one, the loss of something tangible like wealth or property, or the loss of something intangible like the loss of a dream -dealing with loss can feel like a tall order because it is.
While intense grief typically lasts 6-12 months, it’s common for individuals grieving a physical death to experience symptoms for 3 years or more until the loss is fully processed.
Phases of Grief
In Rando’s book “How to Go on Living When Someone You Love Dies”, she describes 3 stages of grief. These stages are avoidance, confrontation, and accommodation.
Is the first stage of grief. In this stage, it’s common to experience an initial sense of disbelief or shock at the news of someone’s passing. You may deny or protest what’s happened, especially if the death was sudden. You may experience numbness to avoid dealing with the intensity of the loss all at once. This kind of denial can protect you from becoming overwhelmed, by allowing you to absorb the loss in a more gradual manner. If you stay in denial for too long, avoidance can go from protective to harmful. Avoidance should not prevent you from moving forward with your life once the initial shock subsides.
Is a time of readjustment, during which the reality of the loss becomes harder to ignore. During this phase, it’s common to feel grief more intensely than in the initial stage. The reminders of the loss can be painful and frequent. Every time you’re reminded of the loss, you learn over and over again that your loved one is gone. Such reminders can leave you feeling confused and conflicted. Know however, that it’s normal to experience a whirlwind of emotions during this stage. This is a difficult, but necessary transition that you need to go through to get to the next phase. Be gentle with yourself and seek support as needed.
By this time your symptoms should be fewer and further between, as any the initial feelings should have subsided. You’ve endured a lot, and are likely dealing with a lot less than in the early stages of grief. Having confronted the loss, you likely have a different relationship with the deceased that matches your new reality (i.e. having a spiritual connection with your loved one instead of a physical one). You may be getting out more, trying new activities, meeting people, and reconnecting with friends and family. You may even have a strengthened sense of identity or worldview, as many people report positive change after a loss. This can entail having a new appreciation for life, different priorities, closer relationships, or a greater spiritual connection.
When is grief problematic?
Grief can become problematic if symptoms continue in intensity after a year. Adjusting to the loss of a loved one is an immensely difficult task that requires going through the different stages in order to move forward.
Part 3 in this blog series will discuss how to adapt to loss in a healthy and positive way.
Are you struggling with the loss of a loved one?
If you’re grieving and want support contact me now.