Grief is the natural response to losing a loved one. There is no correct way to grieve and no set time frame for when the feelings might start to ease.
Although everyone is different, many people often experience similar patterns of emotions throughout their grieving process.
We have broken down all the different emotions into five stages. It is important to remember that not everyone will necessarily experience all five stages and in the same order.
The first reaction to loss is very often shock, numbness and denial. Some experts believe denial helps humans to minimise the overwhelming pain of loss and it is the process the mind needs to follow while it adjusts to the new reality.
Individuals might struggle to believe the reality of losing their loved one, that a mistake has been made and they attempt to cling to a different reality.
Many people appear to walk around completely stunned at their news and full of disbelief, while some may choose to carry on as if nothing has happened.
Feeling intense anger very often accompanies grief. The emotion normally kicks in when the denial stage is over and the reality of the situation starts dawning on the person.
These feelings may manifest as frustration which is then taken out on close family and friends. Or the anger may be directed at the person who has actually died. Sometimes the person grieving might start blaming themselves, the medical profession or even God.
Anger can be experienced in many ways throughout the grieving process and some might struggle to recognise what they are feeling. Others might start feeling envious towards others who have not lost a loved one or even resentment.
Grief can be so painful that some people reach a point when they become so desperate to end the suffering, they resort to making promises to themselves. Losing a loved one can cause people to try to find a way to avoid the pain by bargaining with higher beings.
A common promise might include: “If you will bring this person back, I will be more faithful, give more to those in need, quit my bad habit.”
During this stage it is common for some to recall times when they might have said things they did not mean, and fantasise about returning to that moment and behaving differently. As part of this process drastic assumptions might be made that will lead people to believing that if they had done things differently their loved one might not have passed away.
As the reality of the situation sets in and the grieving person starts to realise there is nothing they can do, depression may start to set in.
Feeling depressed represents the emptiness people feel when they are dealing with loss and realising their loved one is gone forever. In this stage, the person might withdraw from life, feel numb, live in a fog, and not want to get out of bed. Feelings might become too overwhelming for them to face and a sense of hopelessness might start to develop.
The final stage of grief is normally acceptance when the person has finally accepted their loved one has gone and that they will eventually be ok. Emotions might start to stabilise and a sense of normality will return. There will be stages of sadness and adjustment, but the good days will start to outnumber the bad days.
Acceptance is normally the time when people might choose to start engaging with friends again and doing things they enjoy.
Overall the person will have reached an understanding that their loved one can never be replaced, but it is time to move, grow, and evolve into their new reality.