There are many stages in the grieving process
and each person’s experience will be different.
However, as a general rule there are three distinct
steps in the process of coming to terms with the
death of a loved one.
Early stages – Numbness and shock
The immediate reaction to the death of a loved
one is numbness and shock. This is a natural reaction
by the body to allow a person to cope with the
devastating news particularly if the death is
sudden or unexpected. You will also feel a sense
of disbelief. People often find it impossible
to accept that the person has died and will find
they question the situation over and over again
as their mind battles with the reality of death.
At the same time, it is likely you will feel physically
crushed almost as if you have suffered a body
blow. It is also very normal to cry a lot and
feel unable to cope. This feeling of debilitation
may be compounded by lack of sleep resulting in
a cycle of ongoing exhaustion.
A period of intense emotion follows the death
of a loved one. This often takes the form of a
deep yearning to see them, to talk to them and
to keep their memory alive. It is not uncommon
at this stage to have visual and auditory hallucinations.
Difficulties with concentration and the making
of decisions are also very common.
Middle stages – Sadness, loneliness, regret
After a period of time, the raw emotions experienced
in the early stages of grief will give way to
a time of sadness, loneliness and regret. This
is the second step of grief.
In these middle stages, people often experience
waves of grief. One moment you are coping well,
the next you are very tearful and miserable. You
might also experience other emotions including
anger, fear, helplessness and guilt.
Anger – this is a very normal reaction to
the death of a loved one. You may feel angry with
yourself, for what you did or failed to do, with
other people and their lack of concern or indeed
with the person who has died. It is also common
to feel anger with the doctors and the hospital
staff. With anger can come a general sense of
agitation and impatience with people who don’t
understand what you are going through.
Fear and helplessness – you may also feel
fearful. Many things may be changing with the
death of a loved one particularly if the person
who has died was your partner. Any change in financial
security, or accommodation or even family dynamics
can be difficult but all coming at once can make
you feel very helpless.
Guilt – a very natural reaction is to experience
feelings of guilt. You may feel guilty that you
are the one still alive, that you didn’t
help more, that you weren’t sufficiently
solicitous or didn’t appreciate how ill
your loved one was. It is also natural to think
back and ponder on any hurtful comments that you
might have made. Very often People regret the
things they wished they had said before it was
Recovery stages – Sense of normality and
The final step in recovering from the death of
a loved one is to feel a sense of normality is
returning to your life. When you can begin once
again to take a little pleasure in normal day
to day life you are on the final road to recovery.
Whilst, you will continue to have bouts of sadness
and loneliness, these feelings will be increasingly
less acute and overwhelming.
At this stage, in the grieving process it is normal
to feel a sense of relief particularly if your
loved one died after an extended period of ill
Although the feelings of acute sadness and desolation
that you felt in the early stages should lessen
over an extended period of time, sometimes this
doesn’t happen. In this case, it is important
to talk to your GP or a Bereavement Counsellor
who will be able to help.