Five distinct stages of grief must be experienced to cope with the death of a loved one, according to the Cancer Survivors website. While all five stages are necessary, there is no set range of time for each stage. The order in which the stages occur is typical, but it can be in different order for different people. Someone who has lost a loved one also may pass through one stage to another only to go back and experience the previous stage once more before the grieving process continues.
Denial, numbness and disbelief are normal first reactions to the loss of a loved one. This reaction serves as an immediate way to protect you from the intensity of the loss and diminishes the shock of the death. Sometimes seen as a lack of caring, the denial stage will fade as you gain the ability to cope with the loss.
Anger is a typical reaction when you feel powerless and helpless, as in the death of someone close. The loss of death may give a feeling of abandonment as well as feeling of resentment for being “left behind.” As you begin to acknowledge your anger, the anger will begin to diminish and allow you to enter the next stage of the grieving process.
According to the University of Iowa, bargaining manifests itself when you feel as if there may have been something you personally could or should have done to prevent the death. A manifestation of guilt, if not dealt with and absorbed, the bargaining stage can allow guilt and remorse to overcome you. This may in turn “stall” you in the healing process and deter you from entering the next stage.
Depression may manifest itself as loss of appetite, inability to sleep, depletion of energy and lack of concentration. Other symptoms may be feelings of loneliness, emptiness, self-pity and isolation as you learn to cope with the loss and move on with your life.
Once you reach the acceptance stage, you are able to come to terms with the death of your loved one and continue with your life. The loss becomes integrated into your life and time allows you to assimilate the death as part of your life experience.