Psychology says there are five stages of grief. They may occur in any order. A stage can last for days, months or even years. It is healthy to honour these stages rather than ignore or suppress them.
These stages apply to any type of loss, not only death. They apply to miscarriage, loss of a pet, loss of a relationship, and even a loss of a job or property.
Denial is ignoring the loss as if it never happened, that nothing is wrong, that you’ll wake up and it will all be okay. You may withdraw from people in order to avoid facing the loss.
Bargaining is an attempt to “strike a deal” (unreasonable, extreme measures) with God, yourself or others in an effort to revert the loss. You seek a miracle cure, take risks or make sacrifices to change what is.
During the anger stage, you feel angry with God, yourself or others over your loss and outraged by the pain. You vent resentment aggressively at scapegoats (doctors, hospitals, family, friends, even loved ones). You blame yourself, others, or even the deceased for the loss. The anger must be expressed and resolved. Suppression may lead to clinical depression and deterioration of physical health.
When despair sets in, you're overwhelmed by the pain and hurt. Despair is expressed by uncontrollable crying, melancholy and morose thoughts. You may feel guilt for the loss, that you're being punished, or hopeless that anything will return to ‘normal’ again. You may lose your faith in a higher power or feel life is meaningless. It’s essential to work through the despair (with support or professional help if necessary) because prolonged despair may lead to mental illness, divorce, and even suicide.
Eventually, you develop greater understanding of loss as part of the human experience. In acceptance, it becomes easier to talk about the loss without as much emotional intensity. You are able to tell the story and describe the pain of your loss. You can think rationally, adapt to life without the presence that was lost, and cope. Your emotions cease to be as volatile or unpredictable. You regain self confidence, purpose, and meaning. You recognize your capacity for healing and personal growth. Acceptance can arrive intermittently within any of the above stages as your capacity for understanding the human condition grows.