Our heart can ache for a myriad of reasons; a relationship or friendship breaking down, a fight with someone we care about, a choice we made or that was made for us, the death of a person, animal, situation we love or have attachment to and even changing jobs or moving house.
Heart ache, no matter what reason is essentially grief, and most (if not all) endings will result in a person undergoing the grief cycle. Through her extensive research Elizabeth Kúbler-Ross, a Swiss-American psychiatrist and pioneer in near-death studies, determined the Five Stages of Grief, which are:
Denial is a conscious or unconscious to not being willing to accept the situation where the person can isolate themselves due to their refusal of the situation. It can be due to their disbelief that the situation is happening and tends to be a defence mechanism which is masking the person’s shock of the situation.
A person will use anger as an emotion to deflect from their vulnerability of the situation and it can manifest in various ways. They can be angry at themselves, at those close to them or those who were involved in the situation. Endeavouring to be non-judgement with those in this stage of grief and remaining detached can assist both, all, parties.
This is where the person yearns for what has been lost and is categorised by the “if only” or “what if” statements. It’s where we want the situation to return to what we knew it to be, to be able to go back in time and do something different so a positive outcome happens. Guilt is often an emotion experienced in this stage, as the person thinks of what they could have done and feel guilty for not having done it.
Here the person is preparing to bid farewell and is an indicator that the person has begun to accept the reality of the situation. It can be described as acceptance with emotional attachment and it is natural for the person to experience feelings of sadness and regret, fear and uncertainty.
Usually this stage is marked by a calmness and acknowledgement of the situation, recognising that this is their reality and thus now living with the permanence of the change. The person has re-adjusted to life as they now know it and are allowing themselves to make new connections and to enjoy life again.
Grief is a very personal thing and everyone grieves differently. The stages do not necessary occur in a specific order, nor is there a time limit or potency set for each stage. Also it is possible for a person to experience a stage more than once.
An important factor in healing from loss is accepting or finding support from others, whether that support be from friends, family, groups, a healer or therapist, and knowing that support comes in various forms such as listening, reassurance or practical assistance.
Yet the key to moving towards acceptance is for the person to honour how they feel rather than resisting or denying their emotions, as resistance only tends to prolong the healing process.