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Stages and Symptoms of Grief

Published October 15,2014

Everyone grieves in their own ways. One central thing that unites all of us is a basis for a cycle of grief. Most people believe the stages of grief are a linear path that one follows when dealing with the death of a loved one. That couldn’t be further from the truth. The real aspect is that grief is a cycle. It’s personal, messy, and everyone experiences it differently. We’re human. We don’t process feelings through a simplified roadmap that outlines how we’re supposed to feel each day. There isn’t a checklist that lets you leave your feelings of anger and transition into bargaining. It’s OK to feel lost along the way.

The stages of grief are not concrete ideas of how to cope with your situation. They are a way for us to feel connected. When we know that other people also experience these feelings, it gives us some hope and warmth that we’re not alone. The stages of grief also help provide explanations for how you’re feeling and what you’re going through. We hope this blog brings a bit of understanding and clarity to your emotions, no matter how you’re feeling. While you’re reading through this, understand that we’re all different, and no piece of literature will completely explain your feelings, and that’s OK. We’re not meant to be categorized. Feel free to skip around to the section that you best feel connected to at the time.


After immediately dealing with tragedy, you’ll feel a wave of different emotions. One that stands out to many people is denial. You’ll feel like this isn’t happening, that you’re in a bad dream, or that things will get better. Usually, we start denying experiences to give us more time to attempt to process new information. While it’s difficult to control how you’re feeling, it’s important to know that the longer you spend denying something, the more it bottles up, leading to a more difficult realization. Other common terms associated with the denial portion are fear, shock, confusion, elation, and avoidance.


Anger is often associated with denial. Many resort to anger to deal with their feelings. They’ll lash out, say things they don’t mean, and cause harm to those around them. While you know that the person or object you’re angry at isn’t at blame, it will be hard to gain control of your feelings to realize this fully. Anger is a coping mechanism we use to hide. Anger doesn’t always mean a violent rage. Internal anger is just as normal. Some may linger in this emotional state longer than others. The crucial part of getting through this is not letting your anger affect yourself or those around you. You will get through this, and this is just one aspect along the way. As your anger subsides, you may notice a feeling of relief, accompanied by rational thinking. Common associates of anger are anxiety, irritation, and frustration.


Along with other emotions, bargaining encompasses a variety of feelings. You can feel helpless and especially vulnerable. Even the slightest sight of something that bothers you can send you into a spiraling pit. It’s OK. During this time, try to remind yourself that you’re still in control. You will be affected by your emotions, but they do not own you. You may find yourself thinking that you could have done something differently or been a different person. You may bargain or attempt to make a promise to put off other feelings of grief. You may struggle to find the meaning in yourself, or in life. In order to overcome these feelings, it’s important to reach out to others around you. You may feel the need to tell your story. This is part of the healing process. Remember that you’re not alone.


There’s a common misconception about depression that those experiencing it are just sad. Depression is far from easily-described, especially by those who have it to those who have never experienced it. Opposite the anger and denial feelings, depression mostly shows up as a complete shut-down from other emotions. Depression doesn’t have a face. It doesn’t show up as something other people can immediately notice. You may feel the need to isolate yourself from others and deal with your feelings alone. You may even be functioning at work and with friends, but the feeling is still there, looming. You may feel like you’re in a fog or a hazy dream. In order to start the path to recovery, we must accept where we are. The vital steps to take to overcome these emotions are reaching out to others and sharing your experiences. While everyone copes in their own way, social interaction has proven to let those come to terms with their feelings. The feelings of depression are the least likely to be associated with a “stage” of grief, as they overarch the entire process. Other associated phrases with the depression stage include overwhelmed, hopelessness, hostility, and feelings of flight.


The word acceptance may have a positive inflection to it, but it doesn’t mark the end of your journey. Like the other emotions surrounding grief, you can feel anger and depression while still accepting what has happened. Acceptance is a state that you no longer deny or bargain with your situation. It doesn’t mean you have moved on, but it’s a starting point for hope and recovery. You can come to terms with what has happened to you, and you’re starting to gain control of your life. You’re ready to explore new options, make connections, and start making changes. Just like every other emotion, everyone feels differently about it. The important part is to look at it as an “I’m having more good days than bad” situation. There will always be waves of emotions coming back to you, and that is perfectly normal. How you deal with these waves is up to you.

Professional Assistance with Grieving in Grayslake, IL

If your loved one has recently passed away, sometimes it’s easier for somebody else to help you with proceedings. Strang Funeral Chapel & Crematorium takes the extra steps to help you cope, taking care of memorial services while you process your grief in your own way. Contact us today for more information on our funeral services and how we may be of assistance to you and your family.