statue representing grief

As the passing of a loved one approaches or whether it has recently occurred, feelings of grief can surprise us. While it would be nice if we could be instructed on how to grieve so we can know what to expect, this would assume that everyone grieves the same way. Even though no two people grieve precisely the same way, there are a few similarities that grief experts have noted. Being familiar with grief stages may help you and your loved ones anticipate these stages’ arrival as they occur. 

1. Feeling Numb

Despite preparing for the moment of passing of a loved one, many report an initial sensation of numbness, shock, or even denial. Some experts believe it is an emotional self-defense mechanism to what could be overwhelming news or events. This period of numbness, shock, or even disbelief can last hours or even weeks. It may be a while until the reality of the situation settles in, which leads to the next phase of grieving. 

2. Disorientation

As the initial numbness begins to fade, more of the weight of grief begins to rise to the surface. This sensation can creep in little by little or can emotionally overwhelm a person. Individual reminders of the loved one, or a profound realization of their passing can trigger this sudden influx of emotions. In other times, this time of disorganization and chaos can arrive seemingly out of nowhere. Though this time can seem alarming to those who experience it or those around them, it can be the beginning of a breakthrough that ultimately results in relief. Still, this difficult period can last for a few days or may even linger a year or longer, depending on the individual.

3. Restructuring

Following the steadying of one’s emotional foundation, the last phase of grief can begin—discovering the new normal of life. While life will be forever changed, a feeling of acceptance and recovery isn’t too far behind. Physical sensations of grief may begin to subside, including one’s appetite, sleep patterns, and energy levels. The weight of grief becomes lighter, and some either return to familiar routines or begin to form new ones. 

Different For Everyone

Though psychologists and grief experts have mainly mapped grief stages, every experience of grief is unique. Expecting to feel a certain way, either better or worse, should never be confined to defined periods. Every grieving individual should give themselves as much time as needed to properly grieve and recognize when a return to a new normal is likely. Like prematurely removing a bandage or stopping a course of medication before an infection has ceased, rushing through the grief process may result in delayed or improper healing. 

Grief Professionals There When You Need Them

Serving more than patients in the twilight of their lives, grief counselors from Cura HPC Hospice & Palliative Care in Tulsa, OK, help the entire family through the dying process—before and after the loss of a loved one.