The 5 Stages of Grief | Center for Growth Therapy

The 5 Stages of Grief

Alex , CAS, MSW, ACSW, LCSW — Founder & executive director

The Center for Growth, formerly known as Therapy in Philadelphia believes that there are 5 stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. These stages of grief comprise a lifetime process, and are not an end in themselves. Each stage may reoccur throughout a person’s life, triggered by thoughts, memories, and events. Not everyone experiences all five stages; in fact, no single person experiences loss exactly as anyone else. How you experience each stage may radically differ from someone else; the process is as unique as you are. Take a minute to read the rudimentary review of the five stages below:

Denial (5 stages of grief)— The upper and lower lobes of the brain seem almost at odds during this stage of grief. Intellectually, we know we have suffered a loss, but the part of the brain that avoids pain won’t invite the sad reality. In a way, it protects us from being overwhelmed all at once. This stage can throw a person into a state of numbness or even shock. The body and the mind may go on autopilot to prepare for burials, memorials, or other ceremonies. This is a time when you should not expect too much from yourself: just do what feels right and take care of your basic needs as best you can. Moreover, try to stay in contact with others. As this stage comes and goes, you may find yourself doing such things as dialing the phone number of your lost loved one, only to realize midway through that he or she is no longer there. Your whole psyche needs to get used to the idea of the loss, and it will do so naturally, at its own pace. If you are getting stuck in this stage, the Center for Growth can help.

Anger (5 stages of grief) — Denial and anger both represent attempts to protect the self from too much pain. While denial simply attempts to block out or ignore the existence of loss and sadness, anger can be said to be "sadness turned inside out." During this stage, we struggle with life’s most mysterious questions: Why did this happen? Why now? Why to me? Why to my loved one? When fewer and fewer answers come our way, we want to pound our fists on the pavement and wail with frustration. We try to assign blame: to doctors, caregivers, friends, the deceased, even God and ourselves. We start to question what we could have done differently. Your feelings during this stage are real, and all flares of anger represent a critical time to voice your thoughts to an objective counselor or clergy member. It may also be helpful to take a brisk walk to sort them all through. The recent loss has your blood pumping, and you need an outlet. Be kind to yourself during this time and, if you are ready, allow others to care for you and provide support. Grief therapy is about learning to let others in to support you.

Bargaining (5 stages of grief)— You may be familiar with the bargaining that comes when faced with a long illness or immediately after a traumatic event, when the brain tries to compromise with God. Please Lord, if I just . . .[fill in the blank], then all will be well again. After our loved one dies, we experience a searching, as if perhaps our loss is all a bad dream. This intense need to alter circumstances is very normal. It is difficult to accept the things that we can’t change. Grief therapy provides a space to voice these desires, and help you acknowledge the finality and impact of your loss.

Depression (5 stages of grief) - Feeling depressed after loss is normal and even healthy. The loss is real. Losing a loved one, losing a job or witnessing a traumatic event is upsetting. Nothing anyone can say or do will make the loss go away. However, if you find yourself stuck in this stage, grief therapy can help.

Acceptance (5 stages of grief) — This stage enables us to reconnect with the living while still remembering the deceased, as we will never forget who they were and how they touched our lives. Acceptance moves forward and looks back but it does not stare. It is a time of enabling realities: acceptance cleans the dishes and puts oil in the car. Acceptance calls the boss and sets a date for our return. Acceptance goes to church or synagogue to worship not just to mourn, and it attends therapy, not only for healing, but also for the ensuing growth. Again, if you are getting stuck at this stage, The Center for Growth can help.

What stage of grief do you connect to? Which stage(s) have you experienced? Remember, the stages are not linear. People often move in and out of the different stages. Everyone experiences grief slightly differently.

Want to explore the stages of grief more? Contact a Grief Therapist by calling 215-922-5683 Ext. 100. We have therapists in the following locations: Art Museum/Fairmount Area Philadelphia, PA, Ocean City, NJ, Richmond, VA, and Santa Fe, NM. We also offer virtual therapy in Georgia and Florida.

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