The Mayo Clinic says "Grief is the natural reaction to loss." (http://www.mayoclinic.org).The loss can be a job, possessions, a broken relationship, the life of someone you love, or even the impending loss of your own life. Grief is the response to loss, any loss, that cuts us deeply and painfully.
In 1969 Elizabeth Kübler-Ross identified five stages of grief: denial, isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. These five stages are helpful, but only as a guide. Kübler-Ross acknowledges that not everyone experiences grief in exactly the same way. Other experts agree with her. Vaughan Bell, a psychologist at King's College London, says "Most people experience their loss differently, something both important and liberating." (British newspaper, Observer)
Dr. Bill Flatt, marriage counselor and former dean of Harding School of Theology, expanded upon Kübler-Ross’ list, coming up with the following ten stages of grief.
The first stage, shock and denial, is experienced when a person receives painful news, such as a serious injury to or the death of someone they love. Flatt says shock and denial is not so much a stage as a protective response, and it can last for months, even years. People in this stage can experience bewilderment, anger, helplessness, confusion and rage. They may become uncommunicative and impulsive, and respond with crying and screaming.
The second stage is lamentation. Lamentation includes disappointment, anger, hostility, sorrow and protest against the circumstances of loss and pain. Anger can be experienced toward doctors, those who offer comfort, and even toward the person who died, as the survivor may feel alone and abandoned. Feelings of guilt often follow.
Third is withdrawal, the result of a change in self-image. Losing a spouse, child or parent (especially when very young) can alter one’s sense of identity. "Who am I now?" is a common question. A person in withdrawal feels a distancing from their loved one, their former role in life, and from other people.
Frustration is the fourth stage, resulting from all the changes, decisions and confusion that occurs with the loss of a loved one. Four common sources of frustration for a person who loses a mate are money, intimacy and sex, social occasions and dating.
Frustration and the other painful emotions lead to the fifth stage, panic. Fear of how life will continue after the passing of a loved one can become overwhelming, leading to despair, hopelessness and even such physical sensations as heart palpitations, trembling, and choking. The survivor (s) can also worry about the safety of other family members and friends, adding more fuel to their feelings of fear and helplessness. It is critical at this point to work at establishing a sense of calmness, through releasing grief through crying, exercising, talking, and even consulting a professional (doctor or counselor).
The other five stages are depression, detachment, adaptation, reinvestment, and growth. I will say more about them in part 2. Dr. Flatt suggests we think of these stages as road marks: they tell us about where we are on the road to recovery. Also, because everyone is different, we will experience recovery differently. Some will take longer than others, and some won’t experience every stage. The important thing to remember is that, "The vast majority of us eventually get through the process successfully, and many of us come out of it as better people than we were before." (From Bill Flatt, Growing Through Grief, 1987, p.54).