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Five Stages of Mourning
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The death of a loved one is the most difficult events that most people will experience on their lives. We understand how difficult it is coming to terms with the loss of someone close to you, and while we cannot bring them back we can try to ease your pain.
 

Five Stages of Mourning

by GianPiero Bresolin

The stages of mourning are universal and are experienced by people from all walks of life. Mourning occurs in response to an individual's own terminal illness or to the death of a valued being, human or even an animal. There are five stages of normal grief.

In our bereavement, we spend different lengths of time working through each step and express each stage more or less intensely. The five stages do not necessarily occur in order. We often move between stages before achieving a more peaceful acceptance of death. Many of us are not afforded the luxury of time required to achieve this final stage of grief. Throughout each stage, a common thread of hope emerges. As long as there is life, there is hope. As long as there is hope, there is life.

1. Denial and Isolation: The first reaction to learning of terminal illness or death of a loved one is to deny the reality of the situation. It is a normal reaction to rationalize overwhelming emotions. It is a defense mechanism that buffers the immediate shock. We block out the words and hide from the facts. This is a temporary response that carries us through the first wave of pain.

2. Anger: As the masking effects of denial and isolation begin to wear, reality and its pain re-emerge. We are not ready. The intense emotion is deflected from our vulnerable core, redirected and expressed instead as anger. The anger may be aimed at inanimate objects, complete strangers, friends or family. Anger may be directed at our dying or deceased loved one. Rationally, we know that the loved one is not to be blamed. Emotionally, however, we may resent it for causing us pain or for leaving us. We feel guilty for being angry, and this makes us more angry.

Health professionals deal with death and dying every day. That does not make them immune to the suffering of their patients or to those who grieve for them.

3. Bargaining: The normal reaction to feelings of helplessness and vulnerability is often a need to regain control. If only we had sought medical attention sooner. If we got a second opinion from another doctor. Secretly, we may make a deal with God or our higher power in an attempt to postpone the inevitable. This is a weaker line of defense to protect us from the painful reality.

4. Depression: Two types of depression are associated with mourning. The first one is a reaction to practical implications relating to the loss. Sadness and regret predominate. We worry that, in our grief, we have spent less time with others that depend on us. This phase may be eased by simple clarification and reassurance. We may need a bit of helpful cooperation and a few kind words. The second type of depression is more subtle and, in a sense, perhaps more private. It is our quiet preparation to separate and to bid our loved ones farewell for now.

5. Acceptance: Reaching this stage of mourning is a gift not afforded to everyone. Death may be sudden and unexpected or we may never see beyond our anger or denial. It is not necessarily a mark of bravery to resist the inevitable and to deny ourselves the opportunity to make our peace. This phase is marked by withdrawal and calm. This is not a period of happiness and must be distinguished from depression.