The Grieving Process

The Five Stages of Grief and the Healing Process

The Grieving Process

When we experience a major loss, grief is the normal and natural way our mind and body react. Everyone grieves differently. At the same time, there are common patterns people tend to share. For example, someone experiencing grief usually moves through a series of emotional stages, such as shock, numbness, guilt, anger, and denial. Physical responses are also typical and they can include: sleeplessness, inability to eat or concentrate, lack of energy, and lack of interest in activities previously enjoyed.

Time always plays an important role in the grieving process. As the days, weeks, and months go by, the person who is experiencing loss moves through emotional and physical reactions that normally lead toward acceptance, healing, and getting on with life as fully as possible. Sometimes a person can become overwhelmed or bogged down in the grieving process. Serious losses are never easy to deal with, but someone who is having trouble beginning to actively re-engage in life after a few months should consider getting professional help. For example, if continual depression or physical symptoms such as loss of appetite, inability to sleep, or chronic lack of energy persists, it is probably time to see a doctor.

There are five identifiable stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. It is important to remember that people do not necessarily move through these stages in a neat linear fashion; sometimes they may hop back and forth or even experience all five at the same time! The following is an overview of each stage:


Denial is the first stage of the grieving process. It is usually characterized by a feeling of numbness and disbelief. In this stage, people may refuse to believe that their loved one has died or they may try to block out the reality of the situation. Everything seems to be meaningless and overwhelming.

Denial is a necessary and healthy coping mechanism for individuals who have experienced a major loss. It allows them to process the initial shock of their loved one's death before they are ready to face reality, so it can help with healing in many ways.


The next stage of the grieving process is anger. This stage is necessary for healing. It allows individuals to express their feelings and gives them a sense of control over their life again. Anger can be directed at anyone or anything associated with the death, such as doctors, funeral directors, friends, and family members.

There are other emotions under this stage besides anger, such as bitterness, resentment, and hostility. All of these emotions are normal and should be expressed in a healthy way. It is important to have an outlet for this anger, such as therapy or support groups. If these feelings are not released in a healthy way, they can lead to depression or even illness.


When coping with loss, it's not unusual to feel so desperate that you are willing to do almost anything. This is the bargaining stage. You may offer prayers, or make deals with God in an attempt to postpone or avoid the tragedy. You may also try to bargain with the person who died, or with those you think might have had something to do with the death.

"If only I had done _____, then maybe this would not have happened."

This type of thinking is usually fruitless and can actually delay your healing process.


As a result of denial and bargaining, a person often enters a state of depression once the reality of loss has been realized. This is when feelings such as "Why me?" or "It's not fair!" are likely to appear. Many people have an overwhelming sense that life will never be good again because they feel so empty inside after losing someone close to them. Although this stage may last only hours or perhaps days, it can be very long lasting in some cases if left unchecked.

Anger, this natural emotion can surface immediately following the death of any loved one under most circumstances especially for those who were closest to the deceased. Even though anger seems like a logical response, you should try your best to avoid directing this feeling toward yourself. Remember, depression is not a mental illness, it is the appropriate response of a great loss. If grief is the process of healing, then depression is the evidence of your progress on this journey.


The fifth and final stage of grief is acceptance. This doesn't mean that you forget your loved one or that the pain goes away. It just means that you have come to terms with their death and are now able to live your life without them. You will always miss them, but in time the pain will lessen. In fact, many experts say that grief can continue for a lifetime after a major loss, but that doesn't mean you can't find happiness again.

It's important to remember that our grief is not just about the person we lost, it's also about us and how we grieve. Some people don't experience all five stages while others go through them over a long period of time, everyone experiences these feelings in their own way.

What is the hardest stage of grief?

Depression is usually the longest and most difficult stage of grief. Depression can be a long and difficult stage in the grieving process, but it's also when people feel their deepest sadness. They come out on top because they're able to accept the loss for what is was; make some kind of sense with how things happened and finally move forward into life again.

A word from Hoffman Funeral Home and Crematory

It is important to understand that everyone copes with grief differently. You may go through all the stages of grief or maybe some of them but you need to be patient with yourself in dealing with the loss. There is no right or wrong way to grieve, just as there is no single timetable for grieving.

If you are feeling overwhelmed by your feelings of sadness and grief, it may be helpful to seek the support of a counselor or therapist who can help you work through your emotions. Friends and family members can also provide support during this time too. Give us a call at (717) 243-4511 and we would be happy to help.


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