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To Really Overcome Grief, You Have to Experience These 5 Stages

To Really Overcome Grief, You Have to Experience These 5 Stages

There are 5 cycles or stages one usually processes through their emotions [1] when dealing with this horrible issue. Learning to overcome the grief cycle can be a daunting task. Grief sets in and takes places sometimes as a result of a death of a loved one or a super stressing situation you feel like you have failed in are two major factors that may cause grief to occur. We all need to learn about self forgiveness and how to keep our emotions in check when going through this type of trauma.

Grief usually does not kill like cancer [2] or disease but sometimes one takes drastic measures while trying to live a normal life in the cycle of grieving. Overwhelming feelings, denial, helplesness withdrawing from others, acute depression and anxiety usually appear with grief. Adapting to grief has 5 stages.

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Grief Cycle Takes 5 Steps

1. Denial and Isolation: “This really isn’t happening, this can’t be happening”

Denial and Isolation [3] happens when one first learns of an end of life illness, loss, or death of someone close to you is to deny the situation. They often go into a mold of “This really isn’t happening, this can’t be happening,” they often tell themselves. However, it’s a reaction from our minds to control overwhelming feelings. This is a defense mechanism that buffers sudden shock one faces. We block out the truth and try to hide the facts. This is called a rapid response that pulls us through the first stages of pain.

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2. Anger: “Why? Tell me why!”

Second stage is hiding the effects of denying the situation and the isolation sets in [4] , reality and pain soon takes hold to one’s emotions. The intense emotion makes us very vulnerable and redirected instead as anger. The anger may be turned toward objects, strangers, friends or family. Anger also may be directed toward the death of a loved one. Emotionally it is not uncommon that one may resent the person that’s left us or leaving us with the pain. We feel guilty for emotions of anger which only elevates the anger.

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3. Helplessness and Vulnerability:  “If I’d only done this or that, things would have been different…”

Third stage of grief is feelings of helplessness and vulnerability [5] is often a sign we need to regain control over a situation. Some thoughts that we think in this stage are “If I’d only done this or that, things would have been different. Most people try and come up with answers for grief in thinking they should have gotten more help or tried something different or perhaps a second opioions. Some also tries to make a deal with God or high powers as an attempt to post-pone death, pain or suffering, known as a defense mechanism to cope.

4. Depression: “Nothing would help…”

Sadness and regret follow, causing bouts of depression. We worry about end of life expenses, what are we going to do and so many more thoughts of things that we need to do or how other’s depends on us that puts a mental strain on our lives. Depression can be helped [6] with many medications and also a good cognitive behavioral therapy. Family and support are also big contributors in helping depression from a grief cycle.

5. Acceptance: “It’ll never be the same again, but I’ve grown stronger too”

The last cycle in grief is acceptance to the situation. This stage of mourning is a rare commodity not given to everyone. With a sudden death or an unexpected one, we may never recooperate from the anger and denial. Some think they must be strong and igore these feelings but recovery one must accept the situation for what it is. This cycle is feelings of withdrawal and calmness. This is not when happiness returns, more-over a recovery cycle to trauma from a grief-filled situation.

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Reference

[1] PsychCentral: The 5 Stages of Grief & Loss
[2] MayoClinic: What Is Grief?
[3] WahiawaUnitedMethodistChurch: Death and Dying for The Terminal Patient
[4] GriefHealing: Loneliness and Solitude in Grief
[5] Women’sThreapyServices: Helplessness in Grief and Loss, Death and Dying
[6] TNNursery: Dealing With Depression During Grief

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Tammy Sons

Master Gardener, Horticulurist, Arborist

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Last Updated on February 19, 2019

Why a Life Without Pain Is the Guarantee to True Suffering

Why a Life Without Pain Is the Guarantee to True Suffering

No one wants to suffer. As a general rule, people like to avoid hurt and pain as much as possible. As a species, humans want a painless existence so much that scientists make a living trying to create it.

People can now choose “pain-free” labor for babies, and remedies to cure back pain, headaches, body-pains and even mental pains are a dime a dozen. Beyond medicine, we also work hard to experience little pain even when it comes to loss; often times we believe a breakup won’t hurt as much if we are the ones to call it off.

But would a world without pain truly be painless? It’s unlikely. In fact, it would probably be painful exactly for that reason.

If people never experienced hurt, they wouldn’t know what it was. On the surface level, that seems like a blessing, but think for a moment: if we didn’t know pain, how would we know peace? If you don’t know you’ve hurt or been hurt, how would you know that you need to heal? Imagine someone only knowing they have an incurable cancer at the final stage because no obvious symptoms have appeared at early stages.

Without the feeling of pain, people won’t be aware of dangerous situations—what should or shouldn’t do for survival.

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Pain Is Our Guardian

Pain serves to protect human beings from harmful actions. It’s the same reason parents teach babies that fire equals hot, and that hot equals hurt. Should the baby still place its hand in a fire or on a stove, the intense pain remains so memorable, that the child is certain never to repeat that action.

In the same way, pain within human bodies can serve as a warning that something is not right. Because you know what it is to feel “well,” you know what it is to feel poorly.[1]

Along with serving as a teacher of what not to do, pain also teaches you what you are made of in terms of what you can handle as an individual.

While the cliche, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” is a tired term, it’s used excessively for a reason: it’s true. Pain helps you learn to cope with life’s inevitable difficulties and sadnesses— to develop the grit it takes to push past hardships and carry on.

Whether it’s a shattering pain, like the loss of a loved one or a debilitating accident, pain affects everyone differently. But it still affects everyone. Take a breakup as an example, anyone who has experienced it knows it can hurt to the point of feeling physical. Especially the first breakup. At a young age, it feels like the loss of the only love you’ll ever know. As you grow and learn, you realize you’re more resilient with every ended relationship.

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No Pain, No Happiness

You only know happiness when you have known pain. While the idea of constant happiness sounds nice, there is little chance it would be. Without the comparison to happiness, there’s no reason to be grateful for it. That is to say, without ever knowing sadness or pain, you would have no reason to be grateful for happiness.

In reality, there is always something missing, or something unpleasant, but it is only through those realizations that you know to be grateful when you feel you have it all. Read more about why happiness and pain have to exist together: Chasing Happiness Won’t Make You Happy

In a somewhat counter-intuitive finding, researchers found one of the things that brings about the most happiness is challenge. When people are tested, they experience a greater sense of accomplishment and happiness when they are successful. It is largely for this reason that low-income individuals can often feel happier than those who have a sense of wealth.[2]

This is a great thing to remember the next time you feel you would be happier if you just had a little more cash.

Avoiding Pain Leads to More Suffering

Pain is inevitable, embrace it positively. Anyone who strives to have a painless life is striving for perfectionism; and perfectionism guarantees sadness because nothing will ever be perfect.

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This isn’t a bleak outlook, but rather a truthful one. The messy moments in life tend to create the best memories and gratitude. Pain often serves as a reminder of lessons learned, much like physical scars on the body.

Pain will always be painful, but it’s the hurt feelings that help wiser decisions be made.

Allow Room for the Inevitable

Learning how to tolerate pain, especially the emotional kind, is a valuable lesson.

Accepting and feeling pain makes you human. There is no weakness in that. Weakness only comes when you try to blame your own pain on someone else, expecting the blame to alleviate your hurting. There’s a saying,

“Holding on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting your enemy to die.”

Think back to the last time you were really angry with someone. Maybe you were hurt because you got laid off from a job. You felt angry and that anger caused so much pain that you could feel it in a physical way. Being angry and blaming your ex boss for that pain didn’t affect him or her in any way; you’re the only one who lost sleep over it.

The healthier thing to do in a situation like that is acknowledge your pain and the anger along with it. Accept it and explore it in an introspective way. How can you learn and grow? What is at the root of that pain? Are you truly hurting and angry about being laid off, or is the pain more a correlation to you feeling like you failed?

While uncomfortable, exploring your pain is a way to raise your self-awareness. By understanding more about yourself, you know how to deal with similar situations in the future. You can never expect to be numb to difficult situations, but you will learn to better prepare financially for the loss of a job and be grateful for an income since you now know nothing is promised (no matter how much you work or how deserving you may feel).

Pain Hurts, but Numbness Would Be Worse

Pain does not feel good, but the bad feeling of it will help you learn and grow. It makes the sweet moments in life even sweeter and the gratitude more sincere.

To have a happier and more successful life, you don’t learn from success or accomplishment, but through pain and failures. For it is in those moments that you learn how to do better in the future or at least cope a little more easily.

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You are the strong person you are today because of the hardships this life has presented to you. While you may have felt out of control when those hard times came, the one thing you will always have control over is how you choose to react to things. The next time you hurt or you’re angry or sad, acknowledge it and allow yourself to ruminate in it. Then take a deep breath and start learning from that pain. You’ve got this!

Featured photo credit: Stocksnap via stocksnap.io

Reference

[1] University of Calgary: Why is Pain Important?
[2] Greater Good Magazine: The Importance of Pain

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