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Help to get through the most painful part of life...loss. Find the causes of grief, the 5 stages we go through and how to deal with grief and loss.

5 Stages of Grief and Loss

Grieving Life Losses:  Probably the most painful part of life is loss.  Our experience of loss is described by one word more than any other...grieving.  Bereavement sounds too dry and clinical to most of us.  No...the word is grief.  All of our loss emotions are summed up in this word.  Each of us, usually by our teen years, knows what grief feels like.  The losses are usually more remote, at first, like a grandparent or school acquaintance.  The closer the relationship, the deeper the grief. For a more complete understanding, here are the recent popular books on grief and loss.  I was once shocked at my barber's grief over his dog.  I later found out he had no close family or friends.  The dog was the only living thing he had a close relationship with...and that's how he was grieving.  I've grieved over the loss of friends, grandparents, both parents, 2 jobs, a brother and a sister.  I even grieved over the loss of my health when I found out I had Diabetes.  The loss of anything that matters to us will trigger the grieving process.  This process can take a few days to a few years, depending on the depth of our attachment.  This grieving process can be described by 5 emotional stages.  Don't expect these stages to go in exact order, but expect to experience emotions in each of these stages when you're grieving.    

5 Stages of Grief and Loss:  These stages are based on the book On Death and Dying by Elisabeth Kubler -Ross.

Denial:  Usually our first reaction to the loss of something we're attached to, is denial.  Upon hearing my 51-year-old brother was dying, I entered denial that was so strong I didn't let him say "die"...I brought him to the best doctors...I called talk radio health shows...all to find some answer other than the one I kept one lives through stage 4b pancreatic cancer once the liver is involved.  Some people deny the death of a loved one so much that they won't let anyone refer to them as 'gone'.  They will refer to imaginary conversations as if they had happened.  What we all need to know is, denial is normal.  Mom isn't coming unhinged...she's just trying to wrap her mind around losing the love of her life.  If she's still consulting him a couple years from now, maybe there's something to be concerned about.

Anger:  This stage of grief is probably the cause of the most pain from grief.  Anger can cause deep and sometimes permanent wounds that are totally unnecessary.  Let it go!  I've had my days of shaking my fist at God, saying, "Why my brother?...Why my mother?...Why my career?"  Then I had to let it go, or it would be my life that was lost...consumed in anger over things I didn't understand or control.  You will experience anger in your grief.  You may perceive that someone "harmed" you in some way.  This stage of grief is probably a major cause of law suits, but, even if you win...all you get is lose the years you allowed the anger to consume you.  I used to keep mental lists of the people who had hurt me in some way, until I realized they were consuming my life...I was increasing the harm they caused me by "nursing my grudge".  Let it go.  Forgive them.  It will give you the ability to heal from your loss.

Bargaining:  This is as strange a grief behavior as Denial.  It's where we try to make deals to gain back what we lost.  As a minister, several years ago, I got fired from a church staff over a misunderstanding.  Instead of accepting the decision, I decided to start a non-profit organization to perform the same services I had been performing and then contract with the church.  I was unable to bargain my way back into that church, and once I accepted what had happened, I was able to move into areas of greater opportunity.  The next few lines may offend some, but it's the best example of the bargaining in grief I can think of.  In some religions, they teach of a place called Purgatory, where "sinful" relatives supposedly go after death.  They are said to be punished there until they are purged (purge-atory) of their sins by the faithful donations of time and money by their living loved ones.  This is a great way for grieving people to bargain with God over the fate of their loved ones.  I imagine it's a great fundraiser, too.  For those of you who are wondering, Purgatory is not a Biblical concept.  The Bible says all it takes is belief to be with God forever, that no one can, and no one has to, earn it by good works, church attendance, or by giving.  Everyone bargains over a loss in some way, trying to somehow regain what they've lost.  Some people try too fast after the loss of a spouse to "replace" them.  This is the bargaining part of grief and is normal but it has potentially harmful consequences.  It prevents you from healing from your grief and it opens you up to picking someone who is not your lost loved one.  Once reality sets in, both people are usually deeply hurt.  Try to finish processing your grief (usually 2-3 years) before entering a serious relationship.  If you find yourself or a loved one going to unusual extremes to recover a loss...understand it's the bargaining part of grief, try to protect them and cut them some slack.

Concluded at 5 Stages of Grief and Loss-2

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