It’s important to remember that the “5 stages of grieving” aren’t a linear set of steps that each person will go through. You may experience many stages or emotions at once and in various order.
These stages were originally identified by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her 1969 book On Death and Dying. Although they were identified through people dealing with the death of someone close to them, they are still relevant to people dealing with the loss of their partner through divorce or breakup. Even though they haven’t died, the loss is still just as painful.
The 5 Stages are:
Shock and Denial
Initially we might deny the situation is happening or believe that it will get better. “This is just another phase they are going through” we might say to ourselves and rationalise that the situation is just temporary. This is usually a coping mechanism to deal with the overwhelming emotions we are experiencing. It buffers the shock of the loss on our brain. We simply aim to get through each day and take it one day at a time at this point.
As we start to ask ourselves questions and the shock wears off, we often feel anger. Anger towards the situation. Anger towards our partner who cheated on us or left us. Anger towards God even. Anger is such a raw emotion, commonly percieved as socially unacceptable but usually a necessary part of the healing process. We may resent the person for leaving us and causing us pain. Anger is strength and it can be an anchor, giving us temporary structure in the nothingness of loss. It is something to hold onto, and a connection made from the strength of anger feels better than nothing. Anger is just another indication of the intensity of your love.
This stage is not as easy to comprehend as the others. Bargaining is when we run the “if only” and “what if” statements throuh our head. What if I had done things differently. If only I could go back in time and change things. It’s often accompanied by guilt. We start looking at ourselves and finding fault in things we could have done differently. We may bargain with God appealing to a higher power that if he’s real he would restore the relationship. We may even bargain with the pain. We would do anything to not feel the pain anymore.
This is when grief enters a deeper level. There’s a feeling of emptiness. It’s important to understand that depression is not a sign of mental illness. It is the appropriate response to a great loss. We may withdraw from life and avoid human contact. We may wonder if there is any point going on at all, or if we will ever find anyone else that would want to love us. We may feel worthless in ourselves. Depression is often seen as something to be fixed by society. We may only find understanding from those who have been through it. When loss fully settles in your soul, the realisation that the person you loved so deeply doesn’t love you and is not coming back in understandably depressing. Remember that depression is a process of healing.
Often confused with the notion of being “OK” or “all right” with what has happened, many people will never feel ok about losing someone they cared so deeply about. This stage is about accepting the new reality that our loved one is not coming back and that fact is permanent. We cannot live in the past and must readjust. Finding acceptance may be about having more good days than bad days. We make new connections, new meaningful relationships. Instead of denying our feelings, we listen to our needs, we change, we adjust, we grow. We begin to live again, but we cannot do so until we have given grief it’s time.
Wherever you are in the grief process, remember that others have been through it too. You are not alone and there is someone to support you through the process. Click below to message our page for support.