Seeing grief in stages may provide a helpful framework but it is not an accurate reflection of the grieving process. Grief is a very personal and unique experience that can involve a wide range of emotions, thoughts, and behaviours that may not necessarily fit into a specific stage or order. The process of grieving is not linear, and you may experience multiple stages simultaneously or move back and forth between stages over time.
STAGE 1 - Immediate reaction: shock and disbelief
This may last for a few days or sometimes several weeks. You may find you have been very calm and detached during this time, able to deal with organising the funeral or dealing with admin.
Alternatively, many people feel unable to cope with simple tasks and feel completely at sea. Both these reactions are normal.
STAGE 2 - Inability to accept the loss
This often involves what has been described as ‘searching behaviour’, which means that on some level you are trying to deny that the death has occurred. You may think you have heard or seen the dead person or, if you used to call them regularly, you may perhaps find yourself picking up the phone to tell them something.
Sometimes you may feel you have seen the person in the street or even find yourself looking for him or her.
Again, this behaviour is not unusual following a bereavement.
STAGE 3 - Despair and desperation
During this time – often the longest stage of bereavement – you may find that you have lost all interest in living and feel there is no point in going on. The intensity of these emotions can be overwhelming and you may be unable to see any possibility of things changing in the future. This can be a very painful experience and many grieving people speak of a deep sense of hopelessness.
STAGE 4 - Reorganisation
Gradually, over a period of time, the pain may ease a little and you may find yourself being able to remember without necessarily feeling overcome by sadness. This can be a time for you to begin life again and it’s important to renew old interests and take up new pursuits. If they are able to start enjoying aspects of life again, some people feel disloyal to the person who has died. It can seem like a betrayal of their memory, that their love for the person has faded and that they are being forgotten. However, what happened in the past is always an important part of you and enjoying your present and future life cannot affect what has gone before.