How Understanding the Five Stages of Grief Can Help You and Your Family Recover From the Loss of a Loved One to Mesothelioma

August 11, 2014

The Five Stages of Grief… we’ve all heard of them, but does anyone know what they are? We started looking into the five stages to see if they could be of any use to our clients and their families suffering from the loss of their loved one to mesothelioma. It turns out the Five Stages of Grief is something worth knowing — and utilizing.

Here’s a breakdown. First comes Denial, then Anger, then Bargaining and Depression, and then, finally, Acceptance.

We’ll discuss what each of those first four steps mean, and then talk to you about acceptance because we don’t want anyone to think that acceptance means being okay with the loss of a loved one — no way, no how. But acceptance IS critical to the recovery and health of you and your family. And we will get to that. But first…

The Five Stages of Grief:

First of all, it is better not to think of the stages as steps to be checked off a list. Emotions do not work like that — they are not linear and they are not always logical. Instead, you may experience some of these “Stages” at different times, like feeling depressed first and then feeling angry, or you may experience all of the stages one after the other very quickly, like being in denial for a few minutes before you sweep to depressed and then back to denial. Likewise, you could be in the anger and bargaining stages both at the same time!

The point of these Five Stages of Grief is to identify the five most common emotional states that come with feeling grief. Being aware of these common emotional states may allow you to be more accepting of where you are today and how you feel — and they may also bring you hope, because, what you are dealing with is hard, but you are on the right track.

 

 Denial

The denial stage is all about those feelings of disbelief, shock or numbness. You may still be expecting a text or a phone call from your loved one, things that were normal in your life and relationship before. Sometimes you might even feel like you are in a bad dream — it is that hard for you to understand what is going on because you are so sad. This stage is what some people refer to as a protective stage — one that allows us to take in what we need to know on a need-by-need basis, because, without a little bit of shock and disbelief, it would be too hard for us to get by knowing everything that happened all at once. Eventually, the disbelief may turn to questions. “What happened?” or “Why did this happen?” — and that’s when the denial phase will come to pass.

 

Anger

As a culture we like to be anti-anger. Anger, we think, is something to be feared. But anger is actually a very true and necessary human emotion, one that could not be any more legitimate, either, when something so devastating as the loss of a loved one occurs. With anger, we could be angry about what happened or about more isolated events such as things leading up to the death or things that occurred after. We may also turn the anger in on ourselves. That’s something we need to watch out for. Because anger is a healthy and normal human emotion — but only to a degree. And when we turn the anger in on ourselves, that can be dangerous.

Bargaining

This is the stage where you try to find an alternative. Had you just done something differently, said something differently, anything. Bargaining is about taking some steps back, in a sense. Because we are just not ready for the life we have now or the life we are stepping into. Instead, we want to take a step back, back to what used to be. We think, if only. We do not have to go all the way; we do not have to plead to God or beg our friends and family or anything extreme, but there will be moments, and you’ll catch them, where you find yourself trying to trick yourself into thinking that there is some alternative, some way to bring your loved one back. With the loss of a loved one to mesothelioma, bargaining is something that may come even before their passing. We might say we will “do anything,” we might say “please, not this one,” it is our way of focusing in on the past or what is secure to us, because the current state or possible future is just too difficult to realize 24/7.

Depression

Like all of the other stages, the stage of depression is completely normal and even expected following the loss of a loved one. Depression can take the form of feeling empty, as if there is nothing worth living for, or very sad, as if there is no hope. And as you may expect… this part of the grieving process is not typically a “passing phase.” Instead, it may take a very long time (really, there is no way to make an estimate) for you to feel as depressed as you need to feel.

And now here is where the “Big One” comes. Acceptance

Acceptance is about coming to a point where we are ready and willing to try to move on, finding a new life for ourselves where the loss of our loved one never goes away, but where we learn to live with the loss as we continue with fulfilling our lives. This stage might feel like a parting but it can actually work quite the opposite: By accepting what has happened, we may be better able to understand what happened and how we want to live with this news in our future.

An important factor of acceptance is learning to make positive steps forward, steps that can even honor our loved one and help fill the gap where they once were.

Typically, for friends and family who contact us regarding the death of their loved one due to mesothelioma, they contact us during the “Acceptance” phase, one where they are trying to make sense of what happened and what they can do to help progress into the future.

And we are honored by this. Because this phase of acceptance is a big deal in our clients’ lives and we want to do whatever we can to help them build the life and the future they need.

We also tend to think that filing a mesothelioma lawsuit works with acceptance because, with acceptance, we are able to see the bad that happened (exposure to asbestos) and try to prevent that bad from happening to other people. It’s about building the future with the knowledge that we have now.

If you or someone you know has lost a loved on to mesothelioma, please share this information with them. Grieving is hard, but you do not need to do it alone.

Please share this blog with others who may need it.