Good Grief!

Good morning party people!

I woke up to my own personal alarm clock bright and early to get a start on a day of lots of work and (hopefully, depending on the amount of work completed) lots of fun!

One of the things I am working on this morning is a handout for a presentation I am doing on grief. It’s something that has presented itself professionally a lot recently, so I thought I would share my efforts with the blogosphere.

While I think this topic has been covered extensively, especially in pop culture and the media, it’s something that is often taken for granted when people are in the deep, heart-wrenching throes of grief.

A short tutorial based on something I saw on TV recently courtesy of Robot Chicken:

Now in this (over-dramatized) example of Kübler-Ross’s Five Stages of Grief and Loss, the giraffe goes through five main reactions to his inevitable demise by quicksand. I will identify the five stages and then I’ll explain the purpose behind these reactions. Hopefully this will be helpful for anyone who is currently grieving or for those of you who are seeking ways to understand someone who is grieving. It’s often difficult for us to empathize with grief until we can understand the emotions and thoughts behind it.

Denial – This manifests generally as a complete inability to see reality. The person grieving continues to act as if nothing has happened and will not acknowledge the ramifications of the grieving event. When confronted, they often give the impression that they are completely unaware anything has changed. This is often a brief stage because reality usually prevails when it becomes obvious that denial is no longer a functional tool to ignore the pain. The entire purpose of this reaction is to buffer the initial onset of emotional pain.

Anger – This is projected grief. The grieving individual is not ready to deal with the emotions of the events, so they often place blame on others or even the person who has caused the grief. While realistically they know placing blame is ineffective and will not end the pain they feel, they want to express their resentment over this unexpected source of feelings of pain and share their pain with others.

Bargaining – This is exactly how you would imagine it. The grieving party often rationalizes that there are still ways around the pain. This can manifest as a dialogue with their higher power, “Please God, don’t let ___ die,” or something that may delay the reality of the situation more, “Let’s go get a second opinion.”

Depression -  This is when the person acknowledges what has happened and has begun coping with the realities of the loss. Sadness and regret will dominate this depression as the grieving person navigate things like medical procedures, paying burial costs, arranging affairs, etc. There are outward expressions of depression such as regret and sadness and then there is usually an inward dialogue where the person says their personal goodbyes to the source of the grief.

Acceptance – This is a period marked with withdrawal from the grieving event. It may often manifest as depression, but it is not. The grieving party has realized that they must move forward from their situation and continue to live despite their loss. This is not always something that a person can accept and is often the most time-intensive part of grief.

It is important to know that these stages are not linear and people often cycle through stages or skip stages many times before they reach acceptance. This is just a general guideline for what it looks like and how to understand the motives behind each stage in order to help heal yourself or help someone you love heal themselves.

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Posted on by Jen Bingaman, M.A. LMHCA Posted in Individual, Mind
Jen Bingaman, M.A. LMHCA

About Jen Bingaman, M.A. LMHCA

Hi, I’m Jen. I’m a mental health counselor newly residing in Seattle, Washington. I strongly believe in the mind-body connection as the cornerstone of my professional ideology, along with the healing possibilities of puppies, a good glass of red wine, the smell of a new book, and the importance of travel.

  • sarah bolandi

    I heart robot chicken! Just couldn’t stay away from anchorman…could you?

    always love your posts :)