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Acceptance: 5 Stages of Grief & Loss

Photo Credit: JCLK

Acceptance. What comes to mind when you hear that term? Does it seem like something you should do when you are ready? Does it seem like something you will never be able to do? Do you believe that acceptance means forgiveness, denial, or contentedness? If so, allow me to expand your view of acceptance through this article. For the past few years as a trauma therapist I have come to realize that almost every single family pursuing therapy has experienced some kind of loss and grief. That loss and grief does not only involve death but also divorce, estrangement, abandonment, strong denial, severe mental illness, and dissociation. You may be asking how the last three things could possibly be loss but it is important to understand that loss of a person you once knew, trusted, and/or understood can be just as terrorizing and even traumatizing as a divorce or death.

This article will discuss the grief & loss process while also highlighting what acceptance means and offering ways to cope during each stage.

6 thoughts on “Acceptance: 5 Stages of Grief & Loss

  • July 27, 2016 at 9:02 am

    Hi, TT, and everyone else that visits. Very good post; it’s helpful for people who’ve experienced loss to know about these five stages of grief.
    For the benefit of others, my loss happened 18 years ago when my son committed suicide. I didn’t spend much time in denial. Oh, I went through a few days of “I can’t believe this happened” but soon it was replaced by “It is what it is”. It had become undeniable.
    Anger? I spent a lot of time here. Angry at myself mostly, perhaps more accurately feeling guilty, because as my son’s father (and protector) I felt like I should’ve stopped it somehow… somehow. The anger’s not as intense as it used to be. I was fortunate to have found a good therapist and I lean on my personal spirituality, but I don’t think I’ve ever completely left this stage.
    I spent zero time in Bargaining, but Depression is another matter. Still there, 18 years later; sometimes it still hurts quite a bit, especially when you hear “that song” or visit “that place”. I don’t do well at parties any more, which I used to enjoy quite a bit. Everyone wants to know about your kids, and I can’t go there. I still seek regular professional help and need medication, though I take only 1/6th the dose that I started on. Tried stopping altogether and 2 days later I was crying so I decided that wasn’t such a good idea. I used to think that my burden was greater than anyone else’s, but over time I’ve come to realize that many folks besides myself have their own burden. Who am I to judge what’s a greater burden than mine? I believe that depression will follow me the rest of my life.
    Acceptance? Hell, yeah! More “It is what it is”. I’ve also developed my own list of coping skills and it’s a lengthy list that keeps getting longer! Some of the things I’m talking about have already been discussed… professional help, spirituality (for some this means religion, but it doesn’t have to be). From simple things like “Walk in the woods” or “Get a pet”, to “Be good to yourself”. I found the last one is really important: Find something fun you’d really like to do and go for it.

    • July 28, 2016 at 1:48 am

      I just want to say I am so sorry for the loss of your son… I know “they” say time heals all but I know for me, time doesn’t take certain traumas away–it just blunts it or gives me a bit of distance from the sharpest pain. I wish you peace…

      • July 28, 2016 at 12:33 pm

        Velveteen Rabbit, gentle reader, your personal reply and wish for peace honors me. I’ve come to call gestures like yours a gift of the milk of human kindness; very sweet and all-powerful but alas, it seems like in short supply these days. Nevertheless, if I’ve sensed some darkness in your life then I strongly send your wishes that you’ve sent to me back to you many times over. Else, merely accept my deep gratitude.

    • July 28, 2016 at 9:30 pm

      Hi Ed,
      Thank you for your comment and your wise advice. You’re awesome!
      Your wise examination of what happened to you Ed, is helpful for readers here. You and your wife/family endured a shocking and painful experience that often causes complicated grief. Complicated grief includes all of the stages of grief including feelings of depression, anxiety, regret, and a host of other emotions for months and maybe even years. Complicated grief is severe in that the grief experience is compounded by the trauma of the loss, mental health diagnosis (depression, anxiety, eating disorders, psychotic disorder, etc which become worse during the grief process), lack of social and familial support, etc.

      Recovery from complicated grief will include, as you suggest, coping skills that are healthy. Therapy is often helpful. Talking to a pastor or spiritual leader/youth pastor (for youths) is also helpful for existential questions about life. Medication may also be helpful to help with coping (even if only temporary).

      I’m glad that you have found the strength and courage to go on. I cannot imagine losing a child, much less having to find a way to cope.

      I wish you well as always

  • July 28, 2016 at 2:07 am

    Hi Tee,
    Sometimes your timing with certain topics you write about is almost scary, lol!
    I had someone tell me once that healing is like an onion…it comes in layers and brings tears for many. It’s not the linear process I was hoping for, most certainly! I still struggle with this though. I feel guilty because I am not “over” the traumas in terms of being able to go on as if it never happened. Although, I know I have come a long way.
    But the grief? That’s come up again for me lately on different levels. I don’t bargain–though I may have tried to as a child. As an adult who is a Christian, I have to believe there is some purpose for suffering even if I went through it in order to be able to help others. That is good enough for me because I can’t change it anyway and it allowed me to meet certain people and experience things (like finding this website) that I may not have otherwise.
    I experienced dissociation for several days this past week which hasn’t happened in awhile now. I never thought of that as a way of coping with grief. Denial? Sometimes I wish I could HAVE more of THAT LOL! I think some days it would be a relief.
    That prayer you mentioned that child prayed is indeed heartbreaking.. I wish NO child had to feel such sadness, confusion or pain. And again, so glad you aren’t afraid to mention God and matters of faith when appropriate. My therapist is great with that too because although she believes, she isn’t “preachy” or judgemental and just allows people to believe what they choose. Great article once again!

    • July 28, 2016 at 9:59 pm

      Hi Lori,
      I believe God motivates me to write on topics that my audience is currently struggling with. I don’t deny that my writing begins with “God, please show me what to discuss.” Has never failed me 🙂

      Dissociation, for some people, can be traumatizing in and of itself. Why? Because it means that you are separating yourself from reality to protect yourself. Some people dissociate so severely that they lose touch with reality. In some cases, denial and anger precedes dissociation. You are “protecting” yourself Lori the best way you know how. Learning what triggers it and how to cope may be helpful for the future.

      Glad you have a therapist who you find helpful. Very rare in today’s world.

      As always, take care!


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