There are some predictable stages that most people pass through after losing something or someone important. In her work on death and dying, Elisabeth Kubler­Ross outlined the five stages of grieving.

Shock and denial: The first reaction to loss is often the inability to feel anything. This may include feeling numb, weak, overwhelmed, anxious, not yourself, or withdrawn.

Anger: Blaming yourself and others for the loss.

Bargaining: If you'll just let him live I'll promise to go to church every Sunday for the rest of my life.

Depression: Feeling deep sadness, disturbed sleep and eating patterns, thoughts of suicide, excessive crying.

Acceptance: Beginning to look for the lessons of the experience.

The grieving process involves experiencing all five stages, although not always in this order. People often cycle back and forth through a number of the stages before coming to the stage of acceptance.

Recovering from loss

  1. 1. The grief process has a purpose. It is to help you learn to accept the reality of the loss and learn from the experience.

  2. 2. Remind yourself that your grief will end. You will not feel like this forever, you will heal.

  3. 3. Take care of your health. Grief is extremely stressful, and it requires energy to manage the stress.

  4. 4. Be careful with food and drink. While it may be tempting to numb the pain with food and drink. this can lead to the additional problems of alcohol dependence and weight issues. Also, numbing the pain means you are prolonging denial. This will make your grieving process longer.

  5. 5. Talk about the person who is no longer in your life. People sometimes avoid talking about the loss as a denial mechanism. However; this prolongs denial as well as the grieving process.

  6. 6. Take time to be alone. In the days and weeks following the loss of a loved one, there is often a flurry of activity with many visitors and phone calls. Added to the stress of your loss this can be completely exhausting. People will understand if you don't answer the phone for an afternoon.

  7. 7. Maintain a normal routine if you can. You have enough change going on in your life right now. Try to get up in the morning, go to bed at night. and eat your meals at the same time you usually do.

  8. 8. Ask for help. If you don't want to be alone or if you want someone to take you somewhere, it is ok to ask. People don’t expect you to be self sufficient right now.

  9. 9. Let people help you. People want to help because it gives them a way to express their feelings.

  10. 10. Keep a journal of your feelings and experiences during the grief process. Writing about your feelings helps you express them, rather than keeping them inside. It also gives you something to remember and review in the future which you will appreciate.

More Key Points

  • Avoid making extreme life changes after a major loss. Don't make any important decisions until your life feels more balanced. It can be tempting to make some important changes right after a major loss as an effort to feel more in control.
  • Don't hurry your grief process. People sometimes want to put their feelings and memories behind them because they are painful. Grieving takes time, and there are no shortcuts.
  • Expect to regress in your recovery process from time to time. This is normal. It may happen unexpectedly, but it probably won't last long.
  • Acknowledge the anniversary of your loss by taking the day off or doing something special. Have supportive people ready to be with you. It could be a difficult day and it's better not to be alone.