There’s a good chance you’ve heard of Elizabeth Kubler Ross and the 5 stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance) theory. She basically put grief theory on the map and got people talking about it.
Since this one, there have been many more, with the theories moving more towards tasks to complete in the grieving process rather than stages to negotiate.
Grief is super-complex so there is most likely validity to all the theories in parts.
Worden, who wrote Grief Counselling and Grief Therapy, suggests that there are four tasks to complete:
- To accept the reality of the loss
- To work through the pain of grief
- To adjust to an environment in which the deceased is missing
- To find an enduring connection with the deceased while embarking on a new life.
As with most theories of grief these tasks do not happen sequentially. They may occur simultaneously or you could move in and out of them at different times.
Some of the tasks are more difficult if there has been a sudden or unexpected death. You can imagine the difference between losing someone who was elderly and unwell and losing someone young and healthy unexpectedly.
Accepting the reality of the loss would be so much harder with someone young and healthy and you would have already been mentally adjusting to an environment in which the deceased is missing if they had been unwell for some time.
For some people working through the pain of the grief can be the job of a lifetime. Obviously the pain lessens over time but there may be times when it resurfaces, like anniversaries, birthdays, or dates that were special to both of you. It’s important to remember that this is a natural part of the process.
The idea of finding an enduring connection with the deceased while embarking on a new life is also an important concept. Many people fear talking about the person who died, whether it’s to not upset others or because it feels like it’s been too long since they died and you should be over it. Others fear forgetting the person if they have happy times or don’t think about them every day. Others feel guilty for having happy times at all. It’s all about letting thoughts, feelings, and memories in while engaging in things that bring pleasure and joy.
If you’re experiencing grief remember to turn to people you love, keep connections alive, and know that no matter what you’re going through you are not alone.
Take a moment to think about all the people who have lost loved ones through Covid.