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The Stages of Grief and How to Move Forward


By Greta Nelson RN, Good Samaritan Society, Services@Home

Every one of us will experience loss at some point and following that loss, whether it be that of a loved one, family member, pet, or meaningful relationship, we will move through the five stages of grief and mourning. Some stages will last a lot longer than others, and they might not be experienced in any specific order, but they are all equally important in starting the process of moving forward. “Guilt is perhaps the most painful companion of death.” Elisabeth Kubler-Ross (On Death and Dying, 1969)

Stage 1
Denial: This is most often the first stage of loss, even if the loss hasn’t occurred yet, but is expected, we turn our blinders on. It is easier to escape from the reality than to face it head on at this point. The overwhelming reality of death and loss for most of us is too much to handle initially.

Stage 2
Anger: Eventually the shock of losing someone will settle in, and the denial stage will slowly wear off. We may feel a sense of total powerlessness and start projecting blame toward others. You might find yourself angry with doctors, the person who is gone, or even with God.

Stage 3
Bargaining: At some point we may find ourselves saying phrases like, “If only I would have….” or, “If they would have done this instead…” Although bargaining is a normal response to loss, it is essential that we move past this stage, or else we can become stuck with feelings of immense guilt or shame that will hinder the healing process.

Stage 4
Depression: Once the loss has settled in, a lot of us will go through a bout of depression. Feelings of extreme sadness which can include: fatigue, crying spells that last for extended periods of time, loss of interest in work, relationships, or taking care of one’s self, poor appetite, isolation, and or feelings of anxiety. It is very important to talk to your doctor or psychiatrist if you are consumed with thoughts of death or suicide, or if you are grieving for longer than you feel is good for you. 

Stage 5
Acceptance: If the stages are moved through effectively, eventually there will be feelings of acceptance. This is not saying that everything will be “OK”, or that you will go back to feeling the way you did before the loss. Your life has changed, and may need some adjusting to. Moving forward is a slow process for some, but it is alright to start making new connections and relationships. Join a new group, start a new project, volunteer, or find a grief survivors group. A meaningful, independent life beyond loss can exist!

Good Samaritan Society — Services@Home provides care such as housekeeping, medication reminders, preparing meals, grocery shopping, and assisting people with other cares to remain independent at home. To learn more about Good Samaritan Society — Services@Home, please call 563-359-4444  or visit our website at www.good-sam.com/quadcityhome.

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