Grief: the deep and complicated process we all go through each time we lose a person, place, condition, or thing that we cherish, value, or love. It’s an unavoidable part of the human condition designed to help us become more loving, kind, and compassionate towards ourselves and others.
Having gone through so many cycles of grief myself (after losing both parents, close friends, and two of my siblings), I’ve come to see grief as a healing journey from the initial shock or emotional pain we all first experience toward a more profound sense of inner wholeness, appreciation, and love.
Your experience of grief, I believe, will depend on your current level of emotional maturity or capacity to embrace life’s ups and downs. It will also vary depending on where you are along what I believe are the nine emotional stages of grief.
The Emotional Stages of Grief
1) Shock & Numbness
The first stage of the journey is the initial shock, conscious or unconscious, that comes when we are exposed to the new information about what created our loss. A natural defense mechanism designed to keep you from feeling pain often numbs your emotional system, leading to negating or denying the new reality.
The key to moving through the initial shock and numbness is to bring attention back to your physical body so that you can become present to the many emotions now running in you.
2) Anger & Regret
After the initial shock or numbness wears off, many people become angry or upset with themselves, the person they lost, others, or the situation. With anger also comes the feeling of regret, often expressed as sentences that begin with “If only” or “What if.”
The key to moving through this stage is to give yourself permission to feel the feelings of anger and regret. The more you feel your anger, the quicker it will move through you.
3) Pain & Guilt
As the new reality begins to sink in, a painful, sunken feeling begins to set in your lungs, chest area, and lower abdomen. These are the parts of your body most affected by grief. As you move through this stage, feelings of guilt begin to surface. You find yourself thinking about all those things you ‘should’ or ‘could have’ done to prevent what happened.
The key to moving through this stage is deeply embracing and allowing the emotional pain and guilt you now feel so that they can be surrendered as you feel them.
4) Depression & Sadness
As the new reality continues to sink in, and you begin to come to terms with the new facts, a sense of deep sadness or feelings of depression begins to set in. You feel hopeless and with little energy to engage with other people, events, or situations around you.
The key to moving through this stage is giving yourself permission to be sad and depressed and seeing this stage as a natural part of the healing process. During this stage, it’s important to surround yourself with loving, nurturing, and supportive people.
5) The Turning Point
As you move through the lowest emotional point of this journey and emotions such as anger, sadness, helplessness, and grief exhaust themselves, a ‘Zero Point’ or point of neutrality is slowly reached.
You know you’ve reached this point when you’re no longer feeling sad about what happened. Instead, there’s a calm sense that you are going to be okay. You’re finally ready to start seeing things differently, maybe even forgive yourself if necessary. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel, and you’re prepared to start walking towards it.
6) Courage & Trust
During this stage, you begin to ask yourself powerful questions such as, “What is the lesson this situation is teaching me?” or “How am I being asked to grow?” Or you may simply ask God to reveal the truth about your situation.
As you become receptive to the answers to these questions, a new perspective begins to emerge. Your perception or point of view changes. You begin to see there’s a higher intelligence at work in your life that sees the whole. Rather than focusing on what you lost, you now start focusing on what you are gaining.
7) Acceptance & Willingness
As this new awareness or perception sets in, you grow in your ability to embrace the past, accept the present, and notice the lessons you’re learning. A new willingness to explore new experiences, opportunities, people, places, or situations sets in. You begin to see the inherent perfection behind your situation and start to feel optimistic about the future.
8) Faith & Hope
Little by little, a higher vision or spiritual way of looking at your situation begins to emerge. Suddenly, life is smiling back at you. There’s a renewed sense of hope, faith, and optimism. Deep in your heart, there’s a feeling that beautiful things will be coming your way soon enough, even though you can’t quite see them yet.
9) Appreciation & Love
You know you’ve reached this stage when you can look back at what you thought you lost and instead of feeling sadness, regret, or pain, you are overwhelmed by a feeling of wholeness, appreciation, and love. You made it through the healing journey, and you have emerged triumphantly on the other side. As a result of this experience, you’re a kinder, more loving, and compassionate version of yourself.
A time to grieve and a time to heal
There’s a time to dance and a time to sing. There’s a time to grieve and a time to heal. If you’re currently going through grief, please remember this:
It is not time that heals you. Rather, it is the love you give to yourself and receive from others, over time, that heals you. For love and only love heals.
Please be patient, loving, and gentle with yourself and those you love most. Your heart will be glad you did, and so will theirs.
From my heart to yours,