Sandy Cole


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memorials | index guest columns | 1 what is grief | 2 six stages of grief | 3 shock and denial | 4 anger

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As I mentioned in my last article, there are six basic stages, or phases, that we experience when going through the grief process. Most people associate grief with the loss of a loved one, but we actually go through varying phases of grief anytime we are facing a traumatic or major change in our lives. Those stages are shock, denial, anger, guilt, depression and acceptance. Not everyone goes through each stage and they may not follow the stages in the manner that I have listed, but generally people will experience most of these stages at various times during their recovery and may vacillate back and forth between them. Let me explain a little about each stage.

Shock – Often when something unexpected or tragic occurs in our life our minds will throw us into a state of shock. It acts as a kind of buffer system to protect us from being overwhelmed by the sensitivity or severity of the situation. Our bodies do this when we are physically injured as well. You may feel, or appear to be numb or dazed, and feel like you can’t move. Or you may be able to continue to perform routine tasks but feel like you are in a fog or disconnected with what’s going on around you. Some people retain the capacity to be rational and coherent but will have little memory or be unclear about what they did during this phase. Usually within a few hours or days, the fog will lift, the numbness will dissolve and you’ll step out of the protective buffer and into the reality of grief.

Denial – This beginning stage of grief follows right behind shock. It can envelope both grievers suffering through a tragic unexpected death, or those who have nurtured a loved one or friend passing from a lengthy illness. Even though you consciously know that the person has died, a part of your soul can’t or is unwilling to accept the truth. Some survivors will insist that it isn’t true or that there’s been a mistake. This feeling can continue even after you have viewed the decedent or have attended final services for the loved one. You might find yourself still expecting him or her to walk through the door at a specific time, or you may pick up the phone and dial their number. This is all very normal and denial in some form can last for months.

The reality of never again seeing someone who was a treasured part of your life is overwhelming. It takes a long time for your body and mind to heal from this type of wound. Be patient with yourself or with others who are struggling down this road. It can be a difficult journey.

Remember also that we can experience a phase of denial over the loss of a job, our home, and finances. The break up of a relationship, divorce, and when receiving undesirable news can throw us into a state of denial because it’s just more that our mind or heart can bare. If you are experiencing shock or denial, talk to someone. Or if you know someone who is exhibiting this type of behavior, reach out to them. It is not healthy to grieve alone. There is support all around us. And when we hold hands it heals our hearts.

In the next paper I will continue discussing the stages of grief. Until then,

God Bless You.