Denial and anger: The phases of grief, part II

Posted 10/12/19

This column seeks to help educate our community about emotional healing through grief. People may write questions to Golden Willow Retreat and they will be answered privately to you and possibly as a …

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Denial and anger: The phases of grief, part II

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This column seeks to help educate our community about emotional healing through grief. People may write questions to Golden Willow Retreat and they will be answered privately to you and possibly as a future article for others. Please list a first name that grants permission for printing.

Dear Dr. Ted:

Will you please give me an overview of the phases of grief?

Thanks,

Lorraine

Dear Lorraine:

Last week you asked about emotional healing from loss and we covered how loss arrives in our life in many ways such as death, divorce, time, finances, dreams, health and any other form in which you find yourself having to redefine yourself or your status-quo to your present situation and reality.

This transformational process is called grief in which you move from your historical reality to the present reality. You will have a loss and then you have the opportunity to move into the grief process to heal and become more in the present moment. This type of emotional healing allows for you to be more conscious and regain passion and growth.

As mentioned last week, the phases of grief are often clustered into the phases of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. This week, we will look at the phases of denial and bargaining. Please remember that the phases move back and forth between each phase and we cannot just "check off the boxes" and be finished with grief, as emotional healing is a lifetime process.

Denial is often the first phase you will step into as you enter into healing from loss. Denial is important as it buys time for your unconscious world (your psyche) to realign with your mental world. After a loss, your cognitive and psyche (including emotions) can get blasted out of balance. Denial builds insulation (not isolation) and buys time for your system to absorb and digest the loss you are experiencing.

This level of insulation permits a buffer so that you can become less overwhelmed and have time to allow the loss to not dictate your entire system. I see this similar to the recovery room after surgery in which you are given time and care to slowly reintegrate back into your world. With this buffer, your system has time to reestablish itself in the present period with a new realignment to your present status from that loss.

As time passes, you may find yourself moving into more levels of anger, which I call protest. It may not even be at anything specific. Sometimes anger is only the protest of your familiar foundation collapsing, and now you find yourself transitioning onto a new foundation in your new reality. Other times, you may be clear about what you are angry toward and how you would like it to be different. Anger is the protest against your world changing.

Anger is an important part of the grief process as it is a somatic release in which your physical, emotional, mental and spiritual world have the opportunity to release aspects of the present loss as well as residual loss that is being stored within you. Anger is not bad - it is an emotion you cannot control, but we do have a choice regarding what we do with that anger. You have the opportunity to manage that anger to be productive rather than detrimental to yourself or others. Protesting change from loss is natural and normal; finding healthy ways to work with your anger allows for healing.

Next week we will explore the phases of bargaining and depression.

Thank you for the question. I wish you well. Until next week, take care.

Golden Willow Retreat is a nonprofit organization focused on emotional healing and recovery from any type of loss. Direct any questions to Dr. Ted Wiard, EdD, LPCC, CGC, founder of Golden Willow Retreat GWR@newmex.com.

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