Grief is the process by which we come to terms with a negative event or outcome. Grief is most commonly associated with death, but grief can be applied to almost any situation which involves a loss or disappointment.
There are 5 major stages of grief. This model, originally created by psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in 1969, has since been adapted to 7 stages with the addition of "shock" and "testing," but for the purpose of this article, we will focus on the 5 primary stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression/sadness, and acceptance. These stages are not stagnant, in that, while they can be experienced in order, it is not certain that they will be. A person may initially become depressed by an event that triggers grief and then could later try to deny the event or their feelings about it. Similarly, a person could bounce from one stage to another (this is indicative of the testing stage which signifies the change to the original model).
Grief can be experienced following a plethora of different scenarios, but it can vary in magnitude or intensity. The typical grief process is believed to be 6-8 months, but this is also not a stagnant hypothesis. For example, for complex bereavement or trauma, the grief process could take many years. Concerning less impactful scenarios, grief could be only a moment. I once lost a bouncy ball when I was 8 years old. As I looked for it, I denied that it was lost. I was angry that I couldn't find it. I bargained that I must have placed it somewhere else. I was sad that it was lost it. Then, I decided to just move on and play with something else. This grief process took me 6 minutes tops!
Some people choose to avoid the process of grief as they may feel uncomfortable with associated emotions. They may be more comfortable in the denial stage which is also a Freudian defense mechanism. Anger is an emotion that is uncomfortable for many to experience. Anger is usually associated with rage, wrath, chaos, and destruction. What if anger was designed to create connection? What if the essence of anger was to (1) acknowledge something undesirable in the environment; (2) let someone know to help you try to rectify that situation? That seems inviting and extremely approachable. What if anger was just that simple?
Or what about sadness? I once heard a proverb that goes, "Happiness shared is multiplied, while Sorrow shared is divided." Sadness was meant to be felt, expressed, and shared with another person because in that sharing, it becomes more manageable. So why then do we shy away from engaging with these emotions if they lead to our benefit and the benefit of our relationships. One reason is fear. We fear that maybe we don't have the ability to handle the weight of our grief. Therefore, we avoid it. What if grief was beneficial for us to experience? "Good grief." Grief is good to feel. It is our psyche's way to bounce back from a distressing event or circumstance. If this is something you struggle with, it may be best to address this with a mental health professional.
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