If you are reading this and you are suffering from a loss, I want to give you my deepest compassion and a big hug. This topic is never easy. The pain of a broken-heart is unbearable at times. Please know you are not alone in experiencing grief from a loss. We all experience grief and loss at some point in our lives. While some losses are much more painful than others, the emotions we feel are real, and it can be tough, very tough. The emotions you feel may include: sadness, shock, disbelief, anger, a deep sense of pain, guilt, yearning, despair, confusion, humiliation, hopelessness, denial. Please know these are all normal and common reactions to a loss and something that happened that is not the desired outcome you had hoped it would be.
I recently went through a breakup myself. While on some level and in some ways, I was not surprised, it definitely felt unexpected. I was left with so much confusion, questions, and heartache. I felt powerless. Thankfully I am in the helping and healing field, so I have the resources and tools necessary to heal through this and be ok with the process of healing- the good, the bad, the ugly, and the beautiful.
My well-meaning, loving friends tried to jump into action to “pull me out of it,” support me, and “empower” me on what to do and how to move on, but it was not what I needed. I needed to fully feel and experience my feelings while going through the process of grief and mourning so that I could heal. I needed them just to listen, love me, and not judge me or my process. Friends and family can be well-meaning in their attempts to support you through a loss, but please take the time you need to understand the stages and where you are at because this may help you clarify what you need at this time and allow you to take the proper time to heal.
Often, the process of healing gets overlooked and bypassed because we are so desperate to feel better or not feel so bad. The thing is, we are only suppressing our emotions, which eventually get recycled and come out in other ways and areas of our lives. I encourage you to read below about what grief and loss are, so you can identify where you are at and acknowledge it. Eventually, you will move into healing when you are ready. Below I discuss the stages of grief and loss and some tips on the healing process.
What is Grief?
Grief is what we experience in reaction to a loss. It is the emotional pain we feel following the loss. Typically, the more significant the loss is, the more intense the feelings of grief are. Some examples of losses are: the death of a loved one, a breakup, a divorce, loss of a friendship, loss of income, stability, safety, being diagnosed with a severe mental illness or chronic illness, loss of a dream, loss of a job, moving away. Experiencing grief is different for each person and is subjective to what that person considers significant. It is important to know that grief can lead to healing, and it is a natural, human response.
Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, a Psychiatrist, introduced what is known as “the 5 stages of grief” in 1969. I won’t get into her original intent for these stages, but know these stages are widely recognized with grief and loss work. These stages are not linear, and we can flow in out of them during our grieving process.
Let me break it down.
Denial- “This can’t be happening to me,” “this is not happening.” You may not be ready to deal with your reality of things and life. One way we try to protect ourselves by being unwilling to accept the truth of the situation. If I don’t acknowledge it or accept it, then it is not real. In reality, this only hurts us more and prolongs the pain and despair.
Anger- “Why is this happening? Who is to blame?” This is often times when I see people get into “fuck it” mode. Anger can be directed towards the other person, yourself, or at the world. Anger is not always a bad feeling. If anger is used to your advantage (in a healthy and productive manner), you can use it to help you move forward and set healthy boundaries for yourself and others. If you use your anger in a way that, then it will only be destructive and will cause you further suffering.
Bargaining- “Make this not happen, and in return, I will ____.” Many people bargain with God here, praying, asking, demanding, trying to make a deal. You are willing to do anything to avoid accepting the loss, accepting it (this particular situation) has come to an end. You feel like you are standing on the edge of a dark hole, scared to fall into this unknown. You cling to any hope, even irrational hope, that you can, trying to prevent yourself from losing what you have come to depend on.
Depression- “What’s the point?” You experience intense feelings of sadness, despair, hopelessness, powerlessness, and emptiness. You don’t feel like doing much of anything. Getting out of bed can be very difficult. Exhaustion and apathy can set in. You might feel like there is no point to doing much of anything and might even question your existence.
Acceptance- “I’m at peace with what happened.” True acceptance is where you ultimately want to be, but it can take time. And there may be times during your grieving process that you have come to this stage and then went back into the other stages. This is common and a normal human experience too.
Additional Phases, especially for breakups and divorce
The stages described above are the well-known stages by Kübler-Ross, but there here are a few more stages that can happen in between or simultaneously with the other stages. I have gone through these stages and witnessed my friends and clients go through as well, especially when it came to the loss of a romantic relationship. These stages are not linear as well, although they can be. These stages are also highly individualized to the person experiencing the loss and not everyone goes through all of them.
Shock- “What the hell just happened?” This is the initial feeling experienced due to the unexpected. You have not fully processed what just took place. It feels like you have just gotten into an accident. You aren’t quite able to piece it together. This can last up to a few days.
Emotional hangover- “How? Why? Wtf!” Once you are out of shock and denial, you are searching for answers like how and why while experiencing intense emotional pain, self-doubt, guilt, deep desperation, and overwhelming loneliness. You are overwhelmed by everything that has happened and by your emotions. You are trying to process what has occurred, and you don’t know how you will get through this. This stage could lead to or accompany depression.
Irrationality- “I can get them back! Don’t leave me! Pay attention to me!” This stage may accompany anger and/or bargaining stage. You are holding irrational hope while grasping for their attention. You begin to have irrational thoughts of how to get them back, hoping they will come back and reconcile, how to do things better, and fix things. These thoughts may be accompanied by irrational behaviors like calling, texting, or emailing your previous partner with assurance of your love, expressing your feelings, trying to get them back, trying to make up a reason to see them, trying to convince them to give the relationship another chance, trying to make them feel guilty or feel your pain, or even for “closure” but it is just to have more of their attention.
Emotional Rollercoaster- “I am fine!… I am not fine!” One minute you feel ok, strong, hopeful, and the next you feel like you want to die or you are broken down into tears. You feel hopeless and powerless. It is like being on an emotional rollercoaster. It is not uncommon to think about that person almost all day. Often reminiscing about the good times, possibly even forgetting what your challenges were in the first place. You are also going over details and thinking things over in your mind. The “ifs”, “what ifs,” “if only,” “why,” “how?” You feel deep pain because you are experiencing the loss of: this person, belongings, your hopes and dreams with them of the future, your title and status, habits, rituals, and traditions you shared with this person, and the stability, certainty, and safety you thought you had with this person and relationship. You are processing everything in this stage, and although it hurts like hell and your feelings can be confusing, you are on your way to acceptance.
The healing process:
Here are some useful techniques that I have used in my own life and with my clients.
- Allow yourself to feel- Give yourself the grace to be human and experience your emotions. So often people want to bypass this, and we are so anxious and desperate not to feel the pain, the loss, the despair. It is ok and healthy to feel and have emotions that cause you to cry. Cry it out. Let your emotions come through by allowing them and not trying to push them away or stuff them.
- Be compassionate and loving towards yourself- Many times we revert to our old wounds and negative thoughts about ourselves when we are triggered and hurting. Allow yourself the grace to heal, to feel, and be compassionate with yourself in the process. It will make your life so much more miserable to blame or shame yourself.
- Surrender- Surrender to the process. This is not the same as giving up. Never give up on yourself. Surrendering is letting go of. Judgment, letting go of control, letting go of the need for black and white and being ok sitting in the grey (the unknown.)
4, Be a seeker- Seek help and support. You don’t have to be alone in managing your emotions and feelings. Figure out who you can go to get your needs met. Which friends or family members can you rely on for emotional, social, or financial support (if applicable.) If you do not have those types of supports available to you, seek resources in your area and online. If you need more hands-on support, seek the help of professional, such as a therapist, a support group, a doctor, and/or a life coach. Grief and loss groups after the death of a loved one can be very therapeutic. If you are experiencing a mental health crisis, please get professional help immediately.
5. Be an observer- Be an observer of your feelings and thoughts. It is common for us to be triggered and those old limiting, negative beliefs to pop back into our consciousness.
6. Releasing guilt- This goes back to not blaming or shaming yourself. It will not help you to heal and grow to turn against yourself and allow guilt to consume you. Even if you made a mistake, you have to release the guilt in order to learn from your circumstances, heal, and grow.
7. Forgive- Part of healing is forgiving. Forgiving the situation, the other person or people involved, and yourself. Again, it does not have to mean you agree or condone what has happened. It means you release the burden you carry about it.
8. Be patient- Be patient with yourself and with the process of healing. It is ok to take the time necessary for you to experience your emotions, piece yourself back together, and truly go through the process of healing. It is exactly that, a process.
If you have experienced a loss and feel you need healing I want to let you know I am here I offer Reiki Healing sessions in-person and long-distance, which means you don’t have to be present. I work with your energy, so physical location and touch are not necessary. I also offer Transformation Coaching. This is an in-depth approach to healing on a mental, behavioral, emotional, and spiritual level. I will support you through the process and show you how. This has been described by some as “therapy on steroids” because it is not a long, drawn-out process. While I allow you time to go through each step, we get right to the heart of the matter so that we can transform it. The goal is to get you to where you want to be, breakthrough your blocks, and living a life you love to live!
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In your journal answer these questions for yourself:
- When did I experience grief and loss and what did I learn about myself in the process?
- Do any of these stages resonate with me during my process? If so, or if not, which ones and why?
- After answering these questions and doing some reflecting, what still needs to be healed?
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With deepest compassion,