|Stages of Loss and Adaptation|
Even though everyone grieves in a slightly different way, there are
regular patterns that grieving people usually experience. Psychiatrist
Mardi Horowitz divides the process of normal grief into the following
'stages of loss'. These stages are typical, but they don't occur for
everyone, or always in this order.
People often get upset when they first appreciate that they have lost
someone important. They may publicly scream and yell, cry or collapse,
or they may hold it inside and not share it with others. Outcry
feelings may be suppressed by the person who is feeling them so that
they are not felt too strongly, or they may spill out uncontrollably.
In any event, initial outcry feelings are hard to sustain and tend to
not last too long.
- Denial <-> Intrusion
As people get a grip on themselves after the initial outcry, they will
often enter a period characterized by movement between 'denial' and
'intrusion'. This means that people will experience periods where they
distract themselves so thoroughly in other activities and thoughts that
they don't think about the loss, and also periods where the loss is
felt very strongly and acutely, perhaps even as intensely as the
initial outcry stage. It is normal for people to bounce between these
poles of engagement and disengagement. People may feel guilty when they
realize they are disengaging from feeling the intensity of the loss,
but really it is a good thing that this happens. Distraction and
disengagement break up the intensity of feeling the acute pain of loss
so that it is more manageable and less overwhelming.
- Working Through
As time goes by (days, weeks), the movement between 'denial' (not
thinking about the loss) and 'intrusion' (thinking about the loss very
intensely) tends to slow down and become less pronounced, with people
spending more time not thinking about the loss very intensely, and less
time being overwhelmed by it. During the 'working through' stage,
people think and feel their loss, but also start to figure out new ways
to manage without the lost relationship. Such 'new ways of managing'
might include re-entering the dating game (or just starting to think
about it), developing new friendships and strengthening existing ones,
finding new hobbies, etc.
At some point in time, the process of grieving is completed or
'completed enough' so that life has started to feel normal again. While
memories remain of what has been lost, the feeling attached to the loss
is less painful and no longer interferes all that much with the
person's life. Temporary reactivation of grief feelings may occur on
anniversaries important to the lost friendship (marriage and engagement
dates, etc.), but these feelings pass.