five stages of grief

Overcoming Grief In Recovery – Part Two

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This is part-two in a three-part series about overcoming grief in recovery.

In part-one of Overcoming Grief In Recovery, we recognized that losing a loved one can be difficult for someone in recovery. It can be a trigger for relapse. We also discussed how important it is to stay committed to the recovery process after the loss of a loved one. In this blog post, we will go over the different stages of grief.

Understanding The Grieving Process

According to the Kübler-Ross model, there are five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. It is important to note that anyone can experience these different stages at any time during their grief process. In other words, the five stages of grief do not necessarily happen in any particular order.

In understanding the five stages of grief, you can make sense of what you are experiencing as you navigate the aftermath of losing a loved one. Being able to put a name to your emotions and thoughts helps you understand why you think and feel the way you do.

Denial Is Almost Always The First Stage of Grief

While the other stages of grief can happen in any random order, denial almost always happens at the onset of grief. This can also be described as shock. This is the part of you that cannot believe your loved one has passed on. During the stage of denial, you almost completely refuse to accept that the person you care about will be absent from your life forever.

The initial shock or denial of the death of a loved one numbs you to the reality of the situation. You kind of go on auto-pilot. In some ways, this is good because it allows you to carry out all of the tasks that accompany someone’s death – making funeral arrangements, contacting family members, writing a eulogy, etc. Denial can last for days, weeks, or months, but once denial wears off, a flood of feelings are soon to follow.

Anger Is Another Stage of Grief

When someone you love dies, it is completely normal to feel angry. You may feel that life is unfair. You might be mad at God, the Universe, yourself, or even the person who died. While many people find that feeling angry is uncomfortable, it is healthy to express this anger and not suppress it.  

At Some Point During The Grieving Process, You May Begin Bargaining

Although it may seem irrational and even futile, you will find yourself bargaining as you come to terms with the loss of a loved one.

Bargaining happens when you get caught in a web of “if only” statements. “If only you would bring him back, God, I promise I will do anything you want.” Or, you might think something like, “If only I could spend one more day with her, I would give a million dollars.” You may even try to bargain with the pain – “if only the pain would go away, I would be willing to do anything.” Bargaining is a way of trying to refuse that your loved one is gone.

Depression Usually Happens Once You Realize Bargaining Won’t Work

Of course, there is no way to bring back a lost loved one. No amount of bargaining can turn back the hands of time or change the reality of death. Once you realize that the person you care about is never coming back, you will experience depression. You will weep, and you will feel a heaviness in your heart. This stage of grief usually lasts the longest. Depression can be a strong motivator for relapse.

Once You Navigate The Other Four Stages of Grief, You Will Experience Acceptance

While you are always going to miss your dearly departed loved one, you will eventually come into a place of acceptance about the situation. For some, gaining acceptance can be an ongoing process that takes years. While you are going through the other stages of grief, it will feel like acceptance is impossible. However, the day will come that you make peace with the death of your parent, friend, relative, or spouse. Eventually, you will find peace.

Now that you understand the stages of grief, let’s talk about how to walk through the pain without relapsing. Be sure to read Overcoming Grief In Recovery – Part Three.

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Anne -

Anne Lazarakis joined the DARA Rehab team from Sydney, Australia. She writes about addiction and mental health on a global, local and community level. She also relays personal accounts of substance abuse and recovery through the stories of our clients, their families and our own team members.

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