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Why It Is So Hard For Us to Accept the Loss of a Loved One

Why It Is So Hard For Us to Accept the Loss of a Loved One

Having a loved one die is like becoming a part of a club you never wanted to join. This is especially the case if the death is untimely, such as a young child passing, or the accidental death of a spouse. You may feel labeled by your loss and that the burden of this loss on your life is one that you will never overcome. Acceptance of a loved one’s death is possible, however it will also forever change you as a person. Your ability to process the death and the subsequent stages of grief will get you to acceptance. Acceptance of death does not mean you are left unscathed. Death of a loved one will change you forever, but how you deal with the grieving process will determine your acceptance and ability to move forward in life.

The real problem is that most people in the midst of their sorrow can’t imagine accepting the loss of their loved one. To do so would inadvertently mean that the person wasn’t that meaningful or that they aren’t worth the pain and sorrow. A good article on grief by Marty Tousley [1]. These steps are denial/ isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. People do not always go through these steps in the exact order. In some cases people may actually skip some of the steps.

However, these five steps are generally what most people immersed in grief experience. These stages have been studied by researchers and have been shown to be a commonly experienced across all the population, regardless of culture, ethnicity, religion, socio-economic status, etc. Understanding these stages can help an individual who is grieving, as they can recognize that their emotions are legitimate and commonly experienced by others who experience grief.

Professor Allan Kellehear wrote the the forward in Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’s well known book “On Death and Dying”.[2] This is the book in which she lays out the stages of the grieving process. The Professor noted the following in his forward regarding the flexibility allowed within these stages of grief:

“These stages are merely a set of categories artificially isolated and separately described so that the author can discuss each of these experiences more clearly and simply. The careful reader will note Kübler-Ross’s own repeated warnings that many of these “stages” overlap, occur together, or even that some reactions are missed altogether.”

The useful visual (below) of the Kubler-Ross five stages of grief was found at www.slideshare.net.[3] This is a general guideline and description of the stages, but once again, they can be experienced in a different order and/or stages in the process skipped altogether. These are a generalization of the grieving process, so you can recognize these emotions in yourself when you are grieving.

    Acceptance is the last, but not least stage.

    The crux of acceptance is the assumption that this means the person experiencing the grief is now healed, they are once again whole, and that the feelings of loss will be gone forever. That simply is not how grief and acceptance work.

    Acceptance involves the recognition that your life and your soul are somehow in some way changed forever because of the loss of your loved one. You will never return to that person you were before the loss. You are changed. For most people, the change is not good and it is not bad. The change just means you are different now that your loved one is no longer with you. They are with you in spirit and in your thoughts and mind, but physically they can’t be with you any longer.

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    The Funeral Resources Website speaks to the topic of acceptance and how it is a time when the individual realizes they are not the same person they were before.[4] Acceptance is to be oneself in your new life, a changed you, because your loved one is no longer present physically in your life.

    Acceptance should not be confused with healing or recovering from the loss, since that would put an enormous amount of pressure on people experiencing grief. Acceptance is really the beginning of the real healing process. It is the point where recovery becomes about the person left behind, and not about the person being mourned.

    Embrace the process.

    The grieving process is not easy. It’s not a smooth path either. More often than not, it is bumpy, uncomfortable, and a miserable blip in your time on this planet. But that is exactly what it is, a blip. It is not a permanent phase, even though it may feel permanent at that moment. You may be in the depression stage where you feel extreme sadness and loss. This feeling can be so overwhelming you wonder if you will ever experience happiness or joy again. You can, and you will, if you allow yourself to move one step in front of the other. To continue to live and allow yourself to process your emotions and feelings. If you don’t, you can get stuck in a phase of grief or it can come back to deliver its wrath and compounded emotions at a later time. It is always better to deal with the emotions and feelings as they naturally come through the processing of grief. Embrace your blip in time and acknowledge these emotions and steps of grief as you go through them. Author Luminita Saviuc in her article “7 Ways to Deal with the Death of a Loved One” discussed the grieving process and eloquently stated:[5]

    “Feel the pain, embrace it, live it and when you’re ready, know that it’s okay to let go of it for the healing process can’t be complete until you learn to let go. Let go in order to be happy once again.”

    Information is power.

    To embrace the process it is helpful to understand the process. The stages of grief are not a one size fits all. Everyone experiences grief in a unique fashion, as each human being is unique. However, the stages or steps in the grieving process provide some generalization about how most of the population on the planet experiences grief. There can be ups and downs in these steps, there can be repeating of steps, and in some cases steps are skipped altogether. Understanding all of these things and allowing yourself to process each stage as your emotional makeup allows is important.

    Other factors such as emotional support and professional help are also important, especially when a person is stuck within a stage of grieving or is otherwise repressing emotions to try to suppress the process of grief.

    Get emotional support.

    You are not an island in this world. Everyone is connected to other people and everyone needs those connections, especially when you are grieving. There are times in the grieving process that you will want to be left alone. Jinna Yang in her article “10 Things I Learned While Dealing With the Death of a Loved One”, eloquently described her process of grieving the loss of her Father, which literally took her years.[6] There were times she wanted to be left alone, yet other times that a friend was exactly what she needed for emotional support to get her through that time of grief. Everyone needs emotional support. However, levels of emotional support required for one person are not the same for another, even if the situation or circumstances are similar. We all grieve and process our emotions differently. However, emotional support is proven beneficial to an individual during times of grief. If you are experiencing grief, be open to the support and comfort provided by others. Allow yourself an openness so that others can be of emotional support to you.

    Seek counseling and guidance.

    Grief counseling, also know as bereavement counseling is immensely helpful to anyone who has experienced the death of a loved one. The sooner the therapy is sought after the loss, the more beneficial that therapy can be in assisting with the immediate grieving process.

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    The Psychology Today Website has a search tool for you to locate a grief therapist in your area.[7] Their search tool includes counselors, therapist, psychologist, and psychiatrists. Use your zip code to search and you can also narrow your search by insurance carriers that the providers accept. Support groups are also available through this search tool on the Psychology Today Website. Try one method of therapy and if it isn’t a good fit then try another, as therapy is not a one size fits all remediation.

    Reference

    [1] Open to Hope: Can We Ever ‘Accept’ Death of a Loved One” discussed acceptance and so wisely states the following to mourners:

    “You are not alone in feeling “a huge aversion to any thought of moving on, healing, closure, acceptance, acknowledgement, etc.” Most of us mourners have trouble with words like “acceptance,” because in truth the death of our loved ones will never, ever be “acceptable” to us”.

    To be in the midst of mourning the loss of a loved one, it is most unfathomable to imagine “accepting” the death. Acceptance isn’t in the realm of a current mourner’s feelings or even desired emotions. They need to process their pain and grief and then the subsequent acceptance will come in due time, as they process through the stages of grief.

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    The Stages of Grief

    There are five primary stages of grief. Psych Central describes the widely accepted theory of grief processing, which includes five steps or stages ((Psych Central: The 5 Stages of Grief & Loss

    [2] Elizabeth Kübler-Ross Foundation: On Death and Dying
    [3] SlideShare: Kubler Ross Grief Cycle
    [4] Funeral Resources Website: The Five Stages of Grief
    [5] Purpose Fairy: 7 Ways to Deal With the Death of a Loved One
    [6] Huffington Post: 10 Things I Learned While Dealing With the Death of a Loved One
    [7] Psychology Today: Find a Grief Therapist

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    Dr. Magdalena Battles

    A Doctor of Psychology with specialties include children, family relationships, domestic violence, and sexual assault

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    Last Updated on April 1, 2019

    How to Be Happy: Why Pursuing Happiness Will Make You Unhappy

    How to Be Happy: Why Pursuing Happiness Will Make You Unhappy

    When we talk about happiness, we often think about staying happy all the time – every single day, every single minute with zero negativity. Many try to pursue this constant state of “happiness” as their ultimate goal, and avoid anything that may take it away from them.

    But, what is the meaning of this type of “happiness”?

    It’s a lot like your favorite food. The more often you have it isn’t always better. On the contrary, when you only have a chance to eat it sparingly, that’s when you really savor every bite. So is it the food itself that makes you happy, or is it how valuable it is to you when you are eating it?

    Always remember that only by experiencing sadness do we understand what it is to be happy.

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    Video Summary

    Don’t Assume Others Are Always Happy

    Most people see those who have seemingly perfect lives and assume they are happy all the time. Since childhood, we are conditioned to chase the idea of “happily-ever-after” that we see in fairytales. On social media, everyone tends to share only the best looking aspects of their lives. So, it’s very easy to have a distorted view of what “happiness” is around us.

    In reality, there is always something missing, something lacking, or something unpleasant.

    No one has a perfect life. Even the most glamorous celebrities or the richest billionaires have their own set of challenges and problems.

    When we feel negative, we’re only focusing on a small fluctuating curve. As CEO of Lifehack, I’ve had to deal with countless problems, and some of them felt like real setbacks at the time. During those moments, it really seemed like these problems would be the life or death of my company and my life goals. But, I got through them; and, weeks, months and eventually years passed with many more ups and downs.

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    You need to keep your sights on the extended curve.  Looking back now, a lot of those “really big” problems at the time now seem like only small blips in a long line of experiences. Recalling them in my mind now makes me smile!

    Stop Trying to Be Happy–Just Be

    It’s natural to want to be happy as often as possible.

    So what can we do?

    First, throw away the belief that a perfect life means happiness. Personally, I would be miserable if everything was perfect. It’s through experiencing the pains of lifelong challenges that drives us to care for others when they are experiencing similar trials. If life was perfect, you wouldn’t be able to empathize. If life was perfect, you wouldn’t grow.

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    To be truly happy, stop chasing permanent happiness.

    It sounds like a paradox. But, what I mean is to accept that there will be ups and downs throughout life. Gracefully understand that happiness is a fluctuation of positive and negative events.

    Understand the importance of gratitude. Instead of focusing on the unpleasant moment, flash back your memory to when you didn’t have something. I like to think about my career, for example. When I didn’t have a career I was passionate about, I felt lost and demotivated. I felt like everyone was figuring out their lives but me. But, when I found my purpose and started Lifehack, I was deeply happy, even before I realized I would be successful! This memory keeps me going when I hit tough spots. It takes the darkness to make us grateful for the light.

    Happiness and Sadness Exist Together

    What it all comes down to is this: your life will be filled with beautiful, happy and incredible moments–happy tears and joyous shouts and funny stories. But, your life will also be filled with rain and storms that never seem like they will pass while you’re going through them.

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    But, whether your face is warmed by the sunshine, or your heart is dampened by the rain, know that it’s all part of the ebb and flow of life.

    Treasure the happy moments and power through the sad ones. Don’t try to avoid “sad” or “negative” experiences, and blindly chase being “happy”. In the end you will achieve a true level of contentment in your life, based on meaningful experiences and achievements. Being able to create growth and meaning out of both positive and negative events — that is the true meaning of “happiness”.

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