The 5 Stages of Grief | Counseling | Therapy

Grief Therapy in Philadelphia, Ocean City, Mechanicsville, Santa Fe

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

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Classically, therapists believed there were 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 with? Which stage(s) have you experienced? Remember, the stages are not linear. People often move in and out of the different stages. Others believe that conceptualizing grief as only having 5 stages is too limiting and that everyone experiences grief slightly differently. The purpose of this tip to help you find language to express your feelings. Feel free to adapt these stages in any way that best allows you to make sense of your own grief and / or to express your feelings to others.

Want to explore the stages of grief more? Contact a Grief Therapist. Feel free to schedule and in person or virtual counseling session directly online. If you prefer talking to a grief therapist first, you may call (215) 922-LOVE (5683) ext 100 to be connected with our intake department. Lastly, you can call our Director, “Alex” Caroline Robboy, CAS, MSW, LCSW at (267) 324–9564 to discuss your particular situation. For your convenience, we have five physical therapy and counseling offices and can also provide counseling and therapy virtually.

Therapy Services Offered in Philadelphia, Ocean City, Mechanicsville, Santa Fe:

InPerson Therapy & Virtual Counseling: Child, Teens, Adults, Couples, Family Therapy and Support Groups. Anxiety, OCD, Panic Attack Therapy, Depression Therapy, FND Therapy, Grief Therapy, Neurodiversity Counseling, Sex Therapy, Trauma Therapy: Therapy in Providence RI, Philadelphia PA, Ocean City NJ, Santa Fe NM, Mechanicsville VA