Emotional healing from loss: The phases of grief, part I

By Dr. Ted Wiard, EdD, LPCC, CGC, founder of Golden Willow Retreat
GWR@newmex.com.
Posted 10/3/19

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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Emotional healing from loss: The phases of grief, part I

Posted

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:

It has been a long time since you have written about the grief process. Will you please give me an overview of the stages of grief?

Thanks,

Lorraine

Dear Lorraine:

It has been a couple of years since I wrote about the actual phases of grief. Thank you for the reminder! It seems like perfect timing as we move into autumn which can be a very introspective time.

Elisabeth Külber-Ross is well known for her research in the area of the dying process and grief. Her book, "Death and Dying" (1969) was the first of over 20 books published, focused on this subject. Before she died in 2004, she wrote her last book "On Grief and Grieving" (2005).

Her work has been the foundation and roadmap for other research, as well as for people healing from loss. This type of research and public information has allowed people to have a cognitive construct of the process within conscious dying and grief. Even though her work is focused on loss from death, time has shown that the grief process is utilized, consciously and unconsciously, in many types of loss, not only death.

Loss may show up in many forms during your life. Loss of time, dreams, health, self, hope, death, marriage, control, youth, focus, mind, hair, a pet, home, innocence, safety - and the list can go on and on. I think of loss as any time in the definition of how you define yourself, and how you perceive your reality is shaken or destroyed.

Whenever there is an event in your life that redefines you, you find yourself having to transform from your historical self-defined mindset to the present definition and perception of who you are today. This redefining and transformational event is the grief process.

You have loss, and from that loss you move through the grief process which allows your mental, emotional, physical and spiritual beliefs to realign to the present moment. Grief is that realignment. After a loss you may find yourself caught in the past and overwhelmed of the future. This riptide may leave you feeling frozen and rather stuck or in an emotional and cognitive free fall, as your perception of yourself and the world has been shattered. To rebuild the infrastructure of your psyche and your outer world, you use the grief process.

Over the years, grief work has been narrowed down to what is known as the five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance). Kübler-Ross regretted using the word "stages" as there is not a clear incremental process. Words such as phases or aspects may be helpful to describe this change, as you will move in and out of these phases with no set linear process.

Grief is a lifelong process. You will move in and out of the phases, sometimes feeling all the phases or some, or one or two at the same time. The more conscious you are of what you are feeling, the more you are able to heal and become "whole" again. Over the next few weeks, I will try to explain the natural and normal healing process called grief.

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, at GWR@newmex.com.

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