Loss is a normal and unavoidable part of being human, and grief is an emotion that is caused by loss. The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) defines loss as “the fact or process of losing something or someone.” As the Mayo Clinic explains, “Grief is a strong, sometimes, overwhelming emotion for people.” The more significant the loss, the more intensely grief is experienced. There are several possible causes that could result in the grief such as divorce, diminishing health, miscarriage, romantic breakup, moving, losing a job, and/ or death of a loved one. Experiencing grief after a loss is healthy and natural. Grief affects the human limbic system by disrupting certain brain chemicals (e.g., serotonin and dopamine). Dopamine is the neurotransmitter associated with one’s reward center and feelings of pleasure. Serotonin is known as one of the chemicals responsible for maintaining one’s mood balance. Grief will manifest in each person differently, as there is no single way to grieve.
Stages of Grief
Experts conceptualized and summarized a pattern surrounding grief. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross first introduced the Kübler-Ross model, more commonly known as the five stages of grief, in her 1969 book, On Death and Dying. The five stages of grief include:
- Denial: Loss often comes as a shock, and it is not unusual to respond to the overwhelming emotion of grief by resisting to accept it.
- Anger: When it is difficult to experience the loss or it cannot be justified in one’s mind, it is not uncommon to hide emotions and/ or pain behind a vail of anger.
- Bargaining: Attempting to make deals with a higher power to try to attain an outcome different than the loss experienced.
- Depression: Grief-related depression includes overwhelming feelings of sadness and emptiness, experiencing a loss of motivation, increased fatigue, confusion, and lack of concentration. Feelings of guilt because of an inability to function optimally and care for others during the grieving process is also common.
- Acceptance: This is the stage of grief that an individual begins to accept the loss and reinvest in other parts of his or her life. The pain of the loss continues to be present but is no longer all-consuming.
It is important to note that the five stages are not necessarily sequential. Further people will move in and out of some of these stages repeatedly over time. There is no single stage of grief that is universally viewed as the hardest stage. Grief is a process that is different for everyone.
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