Understanding the Stages of Grief

Grief is the combination of thoughts, feelings and emotions that occur after a loved one passes away. These feelings vary from person to person, but their impact remains the same. Whether you’ve recently lost someone close to you or you are preparing for the future, there are several types of grief you may experience. Let’s explore the stages of grief, along with tips for overcoming grief in your life.

Stages Are Not Steps – Grief Is Not a Straight Path

Before we begin, we need to make an important clarification. The word “stages” implies that a person moves from one stage to the next in a sequential manner. The reality is that grief is more like a maze than a straight path. You may come back to the same “stage” several times, or you may bypass other stages completely. Do not feel confined by a set of steps because grief is a unique experience for everyone.

The Five Stages of Grief

As we noted above, every person grieves differently. The five stages of grief may not all apply to your situation. Nevertheless, here are the most common components of grief:

  • Denial: In this stage, you may feel numb or in disbelief. Your mind is trying to process the loss, and you may go into a state of shock. Many people experience this stage until the funeral or memorial service, and then their mind starts to process other emotions hiding below the surface.
  • Anger: Anger can be directed toward many people during the grieving process. You may be angry at the doctor who could not save your loved one. You may be angry at the person who passed away because he or she is no longer around. You may be angry at someone else who is not grieving the same way you do. The anger is a culmination of the many thoughts you’re going through at this time, and it is nothing to be ashamed of.
  • Bargaining and Guilt: This is also known as the “what if” or “if only” stage of grief. In this moment, you may begin to “bargain” with a higher power to get your loved one back. You my also feel guilty for things you did not say or do before the person passed away. “What if I had been there sooner? If only I had done something about this when I had the chance…” This stage is often fleeting, where you may feel guilty for a few moments until you shift into anger or depression.
  • Depression: This is an early element of acceptance. Your mind has started to come to terms with the situation, and you now feel sad and helpless. Grief is a deep-set depression that can last for months or even years, depending on the circumstances. Grief counseling can help you process these feelings as you move forward to the next chapter in your life.
  • Acceptance: Acceptance does not mean that you are happy with the situation or comfortable with the outcome. It simply means that you have accepted the fact that your loved one is no longer coming back. This allows you to bring some form of closure to the grieving process so you can start to rebuild. You may still experience the other emotions after acceptance. However, your good days may start to outweigh the bad.
Personalized Grief Counseling for Your Stages

No two people grieve exactly the same way. You may only experience two stages of grief. You may go through experiences outside of the standard list. No matter how you grieve, your feelings are valid and understandable.

You do not have to go through this process alone. With the help of grief counseling, you can find personalized solutions for your grief experiences. Grief counseling also gives you an unbiased person to talk to – someone you can reach out to when you’re feeling down. Therapy is completely confidential, so you can speak honestly about your emotions. Your counselor will be there to support and guide you every step of the way.

To schedule an appointment with a grief counselor near you, contact MHR Memphis at (901) 682-6136. We offer grief counseling in Memphis TN, as well as marriage counseling, family counseling, depression counseling, addiction treatment and more. 

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Our practice location at 5400 Poplar Ave Suite 100, Memphis TN 38119 has closed on Friday, March 15, 2024. It has been our privilege to support your wellbeing at our East Memphis location, and we look forward to continuing your treatment at one of our three (3) other practice locations. Reach out to schedule an appointment today!