What are the 5 phases of grief and why is not something that you have to leave behind

What are the 5 phases of grief and why is not something that you have to leave behind


Almost all of us go through life in a phase of mourning or mourning the loss of a loved one, but it is often something that we find difficult to talk about.

Although there are some phases of grief recognizable and identified by psychology, mourning is different for each person and, according to experts, is not something that we must necessarily or “overcome”.

Cate Masheder is a psychotherapist and works with people who went through a duel. The starting point to understand and accept that loss is, according to her, to accept death and the consequent pain as something natural.

“Death is part of life, it’s going to happen, we’re all going to feel sad, we’re all going to miss someone, we’re all going to die, that’s the way it is,” the specialist told India Rakusen, from the series of the BBC on mental health Like Minds.

To explain it visually, Cate drew a circle on a piece of paper, which represents the person. “Imagine that this is you and everything that has to do with your life is within this circle.”

Then he began to color it, explaining that “when the duel comes, there is not a single area of your life that is not affected by that pain, it reaches every part of you”.

Colored circle
Image caption “When the duel comes, there is not a single area of your life that is not affected by that pain,” says Cate.

“In the past we thought that over time that pain would get smaller and disappear, but the focus now is that that pain remains as it is , but our life grows around it.”

Following the analogy of the circle, it is as if our life began to develop in another larger concentric circle, but always around the pain in the center.

“Thus, although we experience many other new things in our lives, mourning stays inside, and at certain times, such as birthdays, anniversaries, at Christmas, and on other occasions, we directly submerge ourselves in that pain,” she explains. specialist.

Circle of pain in the center of a concentric circle
Image caption The psychological focus now is that that pain stays the way it is, but our life grows around it, explains Cate.

“Later, when that date passes, you return to remember the other part of your life,” that larger concentric circle.

“What I believe now is that this circle of pain does not forever remain as dark , somehow it changes shape and becomes less rigid, but it stays there.”

So, according to Cate, do not overcome the duel or really leave behind, but “learn to be part of your life.”

The 5 stages of mourning

Since 1969 in this field of psychology dominates the theory of the 5 phases of grief, developed by the Swiss-American psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross.

In his book “On Death and Dying” he presented this general model of five stages of grief that explain how people feel at different moments of their mourning and how they tend to act.

1. Stage of denial

This denial can initially cushion the blow of the death of a loved one and postpone some of the pain, but this stage can not be indefinite because at some point it will collide with reality.

2. Stage of anger

In this phase are feelings of anger and resentment, as well as the search for responsible or guilty. Anger appears before the frustration that death is irreversible, that there is no possible solution and that rage can be projected towards the environment, including other close associates.

3. Stage of negotiation

In this phase, people fantasize about the possibility of reversing or changing the fact of death. It is common to wonder what would have happened if …? or think of strategies that would have avoided the end result, like, what if he had done this or that?

4. Stage of depression

Deep sadness and the feeling of emptiness are characteristic of this phase, whose name does not refer to a clinical depression, as a mental health problem, but to a set of emotions linked to natural sadness in the face of the loss of a loved one. Some people may feel that they have no incentive to continue living in their day to day lives without the person who died and can isolate themselves from their environment.

5. Stage of acceptance

Once the loss is accepted, bereaved people learn to live with their emotional pain in a world in which the loved one is no longer there. Over time they recover their ability to experience joy and pleasure.

But according to the experts, people do not necessarily pass through all these stages or in that specific order, so that grief can manifest itself in different ways and at different times for each person.

Ryan, for example, lost his mother and father when he was a teenager.

“Many times they ask you: ‘have not you gotten over it yet?’, ‘When are you going to get over it?’ But it’s not like that, it’s not something you have to leave behind,” he says now as an adult.

“Half of the duel is not because of what happened, but because of the things that are going to happen in the life that that person is not going to be part of,” says the Briton.

For him, the theories about the phases of mourning are useful because they reflect the feelings for which at some point the people in mourning will go, “but it is not that you spend two weeks in one phase and five months in another … no there is a script, “he told the BBC.

Ryan felt that he had no one to go to deal with his loss, so now he tries to help other people who are grieving.

When the duel becomes a problem?

A complicated duel, according to Cate, happens when the person is totally paralyzed.

“It could be that your social network has collapsed with the person who died, it could be that you depended on your partner for everything and with his death the person feels that he has nothing left, or it could be because he already had a depression or anxiety and the death of the loved one makes it worse … “

This type of situation, according to the psychologist, can result in more complex cases.

How to help yourself or someone grieving?

The duel is inevitable but tremendously individual, so what are the best strategies to cope with it?

Cate suggests talking about how you feel: “with the doctor, with friends, with your parents, find someone to talk to,” he recommends.

But what if you’re not even able to talk about it?

The psychologist then recommends using a system similar to the one she uses with younger children, who do not know how to express their feelings in words.

The psychotherapist Cate speaking with the journalist India Rakusen, from the BBC series Like Minds.
Image caption Psychotherapist Cate Masheder speaking with journalist India Rakusen, from the BBC series Like Minds.

“With them I use a traffic light system , with stones painted in colors, green, amber and red, I tell them” if you feel good, put the green stone next to the kitchen so that mom or dad can see it. If you do not feel good, put the red one, so someone can tell you, are you okay? What’s up? How do you feel? “

According to Cate there are also many things that people do to cope with grief that are very common, although people do not talk about it. They are a normal way of dealing with pain.

“Talking to the person who died is an important one,” says Cate.

“Put on some of her clothes, use her perfume, touch a photograph, kiss her …”, all that is normal, according to the specialist.

Ryan, from experience, knows that there is light at the end of the tunnel: “There comes a time when the pain becomes manageable, you can live with it and it stops being the first thing you think about when you get up in the morning”.

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