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The Phases of Grief

Dealing With Grief
Grief comes in many forms of loss. Loss of a loved one, a relationship, a family pet, a job, one's health or independence, even one's own freedom. And dealing with loss comes in many forms, from depression to denial or more serious reactions. We all have a way of dealing with every day grief, but I think everyone would agree that prolonged grief is never a good idea. Understanding the phases of grief can help us work through it and over come it's long lasting effects.
J. Boots / Inner Circle
This article is by no means covering anything new, nor is it meant to replace professional help for those who need it. But perhaps it can give a spiritual perspective for pagans for how to handle grief and recover hope.
The Phases of Grief
Of course, there are as many ways to dealing with grief as there are people on the planet. There's no wrong way to the way you grieve. Even if others say you're not reacting the way people expect you to react. How is someone expected to react, what is the pre-formed package of emotion we're supposed to feel? Well there isn't one. So first thing to know is that your feelings are normal, even if they're just normal for you.
But in every reaction there is a pattern or phase of grief that is universal. Understanding these different phases can help you understand where you are in the grieving process and maybe even help you move toward healing. These are similar to the stages of dealing with issues in your life; Acknowledgment, Acceptance, Forgiveness, Action and Letting Go. But when dealing with grief, we may approach these stages a little differently or in more detailed stages. From a psychological perspective there are several stages of grief. What I'm going to list here is based on my own personal experiences, as well as, my experiences from spiritual counseling over the years. These are by no means the one and only approaches to dealing with grief. So you may want to read the views and information of others to find the philosophy that best fits your own situation.
Shock / Acknowledgement Shock is often the first stage of grief. It is accompanies with disbelief or not wanting to acknowledge the loss.
Denial / Acceptance Not wanting to accept that the loss has occurred is very common and follows quickly on the heals of shock. "I don't believe it" or "No, this can't be happening" are very common thoughts during this phase.
Barter Some people may find themselves bartering with the Divine forces in their life to change things. "I'll do this if you'll only take this away" or "I'll do that if you'll only bring them back to me". Asking to be forgiven for something you did or didn't do so that this loss wouldn't have occurred is not a desperate plea. It's merely a stage of asking for help to handle the loss.
Depression Depression often comes and goes through out all stages of grief. But it maybe exceptionally difficult in the early stages when you're begging the Divine for help and your prayers seem to go unanswered. Everyone knows depression is part of accepting loss, but when it occurs we seem to get angry at ourselves for feeling depressed. Just remember that everyone needs time to cry, feel sad or lonely and feel the loss they've experienced. Without giving yourself time to be sad, you're not able to release and heal the emotions that have been opened.
Anger At some point everyone gets angry after a loss. "How could they do this and leave me here..", or "How could they leave me to deal with all this.." are common approaches when dealing with a passing or end of a close relationship.
Guilt / Forgiveness
Followed closely on the heals of begging for help, comes guilt. Especially with Divine prayers go unanswered. It's common for people to start blaming themselves for what has occurred. "If only I had done this..", "If only I had not done that.." are the usual feelings. Especially if the loss is something you think you could have controlled, such as being laid off from a job, a relationship or a suicide.
But it's important to remember that there are always things going on in the background of these situations that you cannot control, no matter how hard you try to convince yourself otherwise. Remembering you're only human and reminding yourself you gave your best or did your best in the situation. If your loss comes from the result of a suicide, you must remember that the person who passed made their choice on their own and the resulting passing was their responsibility.
About now is when you can look for forgiveness, in yourself and in the person or people who have shared this loss. If you were laid off for instance, you boss may not have had any choice in who or when layoffs happened to. There are often bigger reasons behind those decisions and he/she may have no control over those.
If your loss was a suicide, you weren't the only one who didn't catch the signs. And in truth some people who commit suicide are very good about hiding the signs and no one may have noticed. You did the best you could and that's all anyone can do. You are not accountable for what this person has done. But you may need to look at forgiving them as well. Forgive them for not reaching out when they could have, for not coming right out and telling those who loved them what was wrong and why they were so depressed as to take such a drastic action.
Forgiveness comes in many forms and for many reasons. Each situation is going to be different. And each person is going to have specific details from their own perspectives about what has occurred. You just have to focus on you and what you feel to find the issues that may need an act of compassion and forgiveness. Especially when you need to forgive yourself.
Hope / Action and Letting Go
The forgiveness, action and letting go are the hard parts to dealing with any loss. But through inner reflection, counseling and meditation, you can learn to forgive and let go. Sometimes forgiving and letting go on a spiritual level can help you release the pain and emotional hurt you feel on a physical level as well. Through all this you can rediscover hope.
Sometimes sitting down and trying to meditate is the last thing you want to do. But remember, the physical loss of someone or something doesn't mean you can't communicate on a spiritual level. Especially if your loss deals with the passing of a loved one or even your family pet. You may not communicate in the same way as when they were alive, but in some cases you might be able to communicate better.
If your loss deals with a close or intimate relationship, your spiritual communication can be a way to speak your mind, say what you have to say and get it out in the open so you can let it go and move on. If your relationship was abusive this might be the best way to lay the baggage heaped on you back on the doorstep of your abuser where it belongs.
You might like to try our Letting Go mediation to help through these phases. As well as, Evolving the Spirit through Affirmations. If you're dealing with a loss that involves some type of abuse or being a victim, you might also want to read the Victimization article as well. This article is expanded in my Ph.D. Doctoral Dissertation - Spiritual Psychology and Dealing With Grief (PDF)

Sources: 1, b1, b2, b3, b4, b7, b9, b10, b11, b12, b13, b14, b15, b18, s2, s10, s12, o1