In the late 60s Elizabeth Kubler-Ross developed the 5 stages of grief in her book ‘On death and dying’ specifically about people facing terminal illness. It was quickly adapted to grief in general.
Just before I dig in I’m putting a trigger warning out for you, I’m not actually going to be talking about death but if you’re in the midst of going through anything traumatic yourself right now please do go easy on yourself and maybe come back to this episode when you feel more ready.
I wanted to do this episode because since the pandemic I feel a LOT of people have been grieving a LOT of different things.
We can’t deny that life has changed immeasurably. Whether that’s for better or worse.
I’m having so many conversations with people at the moment who are dealing with what feels like grief and it’s worth acknowledging because so many of us have faced losses of some kind over the last few years alone.
The thing with grief is it’s really not just reserved for death.
Grief is a natural response to a loss of any kind.
Grief can hit us in so many other circumstances and having been through my own deep grief recently I believe it’s helpful to understand the stages of grief and that healing is not linear.
As you’ll likely know by now, I believe that understanding ourselves and what to expect when it comes to how we tick as humans is incredibly comforting in times of stress or pain and can alleviate a lot of the added negative thoughts and beliefs that we can pile on top of it.
The last thing anyone needs when they’re in a grief process is to be nasty to themselves in their own heads or to beat themselves up for having incredibly natural feelings that do need to be processed one way or another.
Some of the very common grief processes that we might go through and perhaps not identify it as grief is at the end of a relationship.
The end of a friendship can bring up deep grief too.
Coming to terms with limiting illnesses and grieving the way we thought our lives were.
Even the loss of a job or letting go of a business.
Identity loss can hit us hard too and there are so many ways that can happen. Whether it’s down to our appearance, a breakup, pregnancy, infertility, retirement or something else.
We attach so much to our identity and when that fundamentally shifts for some reason if we’re not supported or equipped to handle it it can have a profound effect.
There are SO many more things we might grieve too, but we might not allow ourselves to recognise it that way.
There should be no judgement around what you ‘can’ or ‘can’t’ grieve.
It’s a process and every person is different.
For me the reason this episode felt important is because I’m seeing so many people struggle at the moment and when we can normalise our internal processes and understand that we aren’t broken or alone and that things WILL get better and that you can have immense growth throughout the process it can make it easier, even if it’s just a small fraction.
There is no time limit with grief either. Whatever it is you might be grieving.
But one thing that I find incredibly comforting is knowing that alongside these stages you are also GROWING at the same time.
You are healing at the same time. Even though there might be days where it really doesn’t feel like it.
Grief and healing aren’t linear.
The five stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
I believe that healing and processing and growing are the final stage and also happening throughout.
Denial is a tricky stage because it’s where we might be ignoring the signs that it’s time to let go of something that is right under our nose.
If you’ve lost a loved one this is different, it might show up as a feeling of numbness and carrying on as if something hasn’t happened.
We need to remember that this is a way of protecting ourselves and is totally natural and not anything to feel shame around. Our minds need to adjust to a new reality and that can take time and feel confusing.
The next stage is anger. Oof I went through this one big time!
This is where we’re seeing our new reality for what it is a little more. We might be angry with someone else or we might be angry at the situation itself, or some higher power.
You might lash out at others in this stage.
We need to remember in this stage that it’s part of the process and it’s justified.
The way I saw it though was progress. Things are moving. It’s another step forward and an opportunity to work WITH the emotion. Finding ways to process the healthy anger and not be consumed by it.
The next stage is bargaining. This is where we’re still trying to protect ourselves and trying to find ways to alleviate the pain.
We might do this with someone else that’s involved or we might do it with ourselves or a higher power. This is where we might feel like we’d do anything to take away the pain.
This is where, in relationship break ups, it can be so easy to go back to someone that’s not right for us. Or we might start to look for the positives and ignore the negatives in a situation because it might feel easier to go back than do the healing work to move forwards.
Remember change happens when the pain of staying where you are outweighs the pain of the change.
Please be kind to yourself if you recognise this in yourself and be kind to others who might be going through this as it can bring with it an intense feeling of powerlessness and lack of control and can feel very isolating.
Then we have the depression stage. Again, a painful but necessary part of the process and one where healing IS still taking place. Again, double down on understanding where you’re at and the things that you know help you feel better. You ARE processing pain in this stage. This is where people might want to isolate themselves more and be less sociable.
In this stage for me I felt the need to retreat and I gave myself that sometimes but I also made sure I Was reaching out to people and being honest about where I was at. Some really beautiful memories have come from this for me and every time I did spend time with people I always felt better after. It might be different for you.
So much of what makes these first few stages so hard is how much we’re trying to resist and fight against it.
Eventually you come to the acceptance stage. This is where the fog clears, things feel calmer and the pain is not as painful.
We’re coming out of survival mode.
You can see the growth and the learning that you’ll take through life in this stage.
You might feel like you’re coming back to yourself. Hopeful.
Please remember grief is not linear. You might move through these stages quickly and in order or you might go backwards again but you WILL come out the other side.
This is just one model of the grieving process and it’s one that I found helpful.
Whether you’re grieving a loved one, an identity, a relationship, a friend, a business you’ve let go of, a job you’ve lost, you ARE healing.
You might find you need to sleep more and also struggle to sleep. You might procrastinate more.
It’s a time to go all in on looking after yourself and listening to what you need.
You will likely need more rest, allow it instead of beating yourself up for it. Let go of the guilt.
Please take good care of yourself, and other people in your life that you might be recognising these signs in and don’t feel the need to rush and have patience.
Fran Excell, Success Mindset Mentor at www.franexcell.com – Helping Business Owners & Executives Overcome Stress & Self Sabotage so they can get back their time, get off the emotional rollercoaster and feel more in control.
Check out The Positive Pants Podcast Here
Download your FREE Stressed To Success Meditation Here
Join The Positive Pants Toolkit App Here
Work with me. Book In a Free 20 Minute Discovery Call Here