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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Bereavement Series: Grief Stages and Confusion

Elizabeth Kubler Ross never meant for her list of typical stages to be a model of rigid steps. A mixed emotional reaction often is felt. Also, the reactions can start while someone is still alive but ill.

The reactions she listed were as follows.

1. Denial Shock. Example: I can't believe that this is happening.
2. Anger Frustration. Example: Why is this happening? It's unfair! She/he didn't deserve this!
3. Bargaining Making promises to a higher power in exchange for this not to happen.
4. Depression Feeling like you don't care anymore.
5. Acceptance Preparing to go on with life, moving ahead to new interests, accepting what cannot be changed.

Those of us who have lost someone very dear know it's possible to feel shock, anger, pain, bargaining or any combination of the above all at once.

Dr. Roberta Temes had another approach and described these reactions to grief.

1. Numbness - socially withdrawn and functioning mechanically
2. Disorganization - "intensely painful feelings of loss"
3. Reorganization - re-entering a normal social life

It is common for some people to go back and forth between feeling numb and feeling intense pain.

When the numbness is there you might think the grieving is over. But then something can trigger intense pain.

The professionals who study grief agree on the following.
1. There is no completion date for grief.
2. Each grief is situation specific and therefore unique.
3. It's important to let the emotions flow rather than keep them bottled up.

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