The stages of mourning
You might wonder what I mean by ‘mourning’ and how it can be applicable to you. Mourning is not just something you go through when a loved one passes away. It’s also a process that you go through when you lose something or go through significant change. For example, losing your job, losing a friend, losing abilities, leaving a community, divorce, changing your lifestyle and in my case leaving your country. The range is quite extensive and can also differ from person to person.
In general the process looks like this:
1. Denial – It is a defense mechanism that carries us through the shock. We deny the reality and facts of the situation in order to cope with the pain.
2. Anger – As reality starts to sink in, we still do not know how to cope with the change or loss. We feel guilty. We might cast blame or harbour resentment due to the intensity of the pain.
3. Bargaining – We struggle to let go. We feel helpless and this often makes us want to regain some kind of control. We bargain with the “what if’s” and the “buts” and how things could have been if…
4. Depression – Sadness, lack of motivation, craving comfort and support. We sense a void left behind.
5. Acceptance – We gain new perspective, peace settles in and though slowly, we start moving forward.
You might not experience all of the above for the same duration or intensity, but they will be present somewhere. The duration of the process also differs significantly from person to person and from situation to situation and thus the items should be viewed as guides through the process and not a fixed schedule.
It would be to our benefit to define the stages, realise what we are going through, properly work through each stage, deal with the emotions and remember that it’s a process and not a race. It also helps us to identify what our needs are during each stage of the process in order for our partners, family or friends to support and comfort us.
The stages are not intended to scare us. It is merely a tool to help us manage the stage that we are in and understand why we think and react the way we do. Take heart, the light at the end of the tunnel is knowing that the last stage is acceptance and that the process does not have to last forever. It is true that some aspects will never be forgotten, but hopefully through managing the process we can reach a point where painful moments can become beautiful memories.
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