The Journey After Loss

2020-2021 created a rise in the amount of grief and loss felt by various communities, families, and individuals. First and foremost know that you do not have to deal with processing all of this alone. Seek support from family, friends, as well as seek mental health treatment if needed. There is no shame in saying “I need help”. The stages of grief are: Shock, Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Testing, & Acceptance [as defined by Dr. Kübler-Ross in the modified model].

Explore more in depth each of these seven stages to learn more about how you can process what is going on. Keep in mind that the stages of grief do not necessarily have to follow a death. The stages of grief can occur with any loss that is significant in your life. Take for example the loss of a friendship, loss of a relationship, loss of a job, loss of normalcy, loss of essential life resources (e.g. food/shelter) etc. Also, keep in mind there is no step by step order or time frame for the time spent in each stage. No loss is exactly the same, therefore no grief looks exactly the same. My hopes are that you allow yourself to process your grief journey with lovingkindness towards yourself, as well as become aware of how others might be handling their own process.

SHOCK: Your mind can’t wrap itself around the fact that there has been a loss. You might notice that you are struggling with concentration and it might be affecting your daily routine, tasks, and other responsibilities. Everything has been flipped upside down and you’re left in disbelief.

DENIAL: Since your mind cannot wrap itself around the fact that there has been a loss, you then start to deny that the loss happened. You might be waiting for a phone call that says it was a bad dream or that proves that you’re right and that the loss is not real, that everything is as it should be and “normal”. In fact, you might just carry on like if nothing happened because in your head nothing has happened.

ANGER: You might find yourself coming to terms with the fact that there has been a loss and now emotions of anger emerge. You’re angry with the world, with others, with family/friends, with yourself. “Why did this have to happen?”, “Why didn’t I help”, or “Why didn’t I do things different?” begin to overwhelm your thoughts. The anger felt can be internalized (e.g. negative thoughts, self-blame, depression) or it can be externalized (e.g. physical aggression and or criticizing others).

BARGAINING: You might find yourself telling God or your Higher Power: “I promise I will do ________ if you can just reverse what happened”. You’re at a point that again your mind cannot seem to comprehend the reality of the loss that you might come to believe that you can rewind time and set things right.

DEPRESSION: You might find yourself being consumed with negative thoughts and you’re telling yourself that somehow it is all your fault. You are overwhelmed with sadness and your heart feels like it has been broken beyond repair. It is going to hurt. Assign time for yourself where you can allow yourself to feel the emotions of sadness, but also assign for yourself time where you can focus on positive things in your life and in engaging in things that bring you a hint of happiness in this moment.

TESTING: You’re thinking about how life might look like now. You are no longer in complete shock, you are no longer denying the reality, and you are no longer completely overwhelmed by raging anger or severe depression due to the loss. You begin to think a little more clearly and start to imagine how moving forward is going to look like, how it might happen, or what things you can do now that can help you move forward. However, you might find yourself dipping back into previous stages like having one foot in the water and one foot in the sand. It can be overwhelming trying to adjust and not being sure if you’re ready. Only you know what else you need to work through to get to the Acceptance stage. Listen to your body and listen to your internal compass to lead you to what you need to continue to explore thoroughly. It takes great courage to do the things you have done thus far to overcome your grief.

ACCEPTANCE: You might arrive at this stage in days, weeks, months, or years after the loss. It all depends on how you have coped with the loss and how you feel. I believe there are even degrees of acceptance that come along the way. Acceptance may include factors like engaging in helping others, using positive affirmations, hope, new patterns, new strengths, and new relationships.