7 Stages of Grief
Stages Of Grief In The Loss Of A Partner
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by William G. DeFoore, Ph.D.
The Grief Process Is All About Love
The stages of grief after loss of a partner usually brings to mind the pain and sorrow of loss, so what is this about love? Well, you've probably noticed, the greater the love, the greater the loss.
So it starts with love, when you "fell" in love with your partner in the first place. And then you spent a short time, a long time, or a life time together...and now they're gone. No one can really know the depth of your loss or your grief but you--however, it can be very helpful to have some guidelines and information to get through this challenging time, which is why this web page is here.
Let's take a look at the 7 stages of grief (adapted from Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, On Death And Dying, 1997):
1. Shock. This is your brilliant body/mind's way of softening the blow of your loss. It's a kind of internal self-protection mechanism, and it's automatic. You might feel numb or disconnected, and a little odd for not feeling more. Don't worry about this, it's totally normal. And it will pass. The shock stage of the grief process is stronger, the more traumatic the death.
2. Denial. This is phase two of the self-protective process. It's your mind's way of pretending that your partner is not really gone, or that you're not really hurting. While it's okay to visit denial, it's not a good place to live--you can get really sick if you're stuck in denial. It is pretty easy to see how shock and denial can go hand in hand.
3. Anger. This is your effort to say "No!" to the reality of your loss. Again, an okay place to visit, but a terrible place to live. Don't let your grief process make you bitter. Let's keep moving, it will get better. You might be angry at your deceased partner, at yourself, another family member or God. It's not really that important what/who you're mad at, the important thing is to move through it and not get stuck.
4. Bargaining. Yet another way of trying to avoid the pain of the loss, this phase of the grief process involves a variety of behaviors. Looking for a way out of the pain and the reality of the loss can lead you into working excessively, or jumping into new relationships. Some folks turn to drugs, alcohol and other compulsive-addictive behaviors during this phase of the grief stages.
5. Depression. Of all of the 7 stages of grief, this one can be one of the most challenging to move through. The depression stage of the grief process involves a kind of despair, where the color is just gone out of your life now that your partner is no longer with you. This is what happens when the other emotions (sorrow, anger, etc.) are not being expressed and released.
6. Testing. Here is where true recovery begins. You start checking to see if you can handle situations you have avoided before. You experiment with laughter and enjoying yourself. You might even test the possibility of loving connections with others at this point, if you've been avoiding that. This is a very important part of the stages of grief, because it is the first movement out of the darker emotions and into the brighter aspects of life.
7. Acceptance. Now you're starting to get comfortable with your new life, and accepting that your partner is not going to be there to share it with you. This is not possible unless you have made loving and joyful connections in the testing stage. Activity levels pick up in this stage, and in many ways the grief process is complete.
Do you want step-by-step guidelines for how to grieve? Here you go: how to move through the
stages of grief.
Remember, grieving is an act of love. It started with love between you and your partner, and when you do your healthy grief process, you will be left with mostly feelings of love and joy over having known that very special person.
William G. DeFoore, Ph.D. is an author, counselor, and owner of
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