People experience pain in all areas of their lives, suffering is the response to a terminal illness or the death of someone they care about a lot, be it a person or an animal. Pain comprises five stages, which were first identified by Elsabeth Kubler-Ross in her book “On Death and Dying” and which we illustrate below.
The rejection phase helps to survive the loss, the news turns upside down and life no longer makes sense. You go into a state of shock and denial. Questions like “How am I going to do it now?”, “Am I able to move on?” Start to arise, but denial and shock allow me to survive, they are a way of handling the bad news.
When you accept the loss, questions arise and, without realizing it, the healing process begins and the denial slowly disappears. Over time, feelings that have been denied come to the surface.
Anger is a necessary step in the healing process, even this anger may seem interminable. However, the greater the anger, the sooner it will disappear and the healing process can proceed. Other emotions emerge, but anger is what we get used to showing and it has no limits. You feel anger towards others, towards yourself, towards your loved one or even towards God.
Pain hides behind the feeling of anger and it is normal to feel abandoned. Anger is the temporary force needed to manage loss, a way to feel better and a proof of the intensity of love.
Faced with the loss of a loved one, we think about negotiation, which can be a momentary respite, that is, we want to go back to life as before, we want the loved one to feel good again.
This is a form of going back in time. This situation also leads us to feel guilty thinking about what we could have done and instead we have not done. It is a way of negotiating with pain. We are willing to do whatever it takes to not feel the pain of loss. We try to negotiate this loss.
After the negotiation, all attention returns to the present, the feeling of emptiness and pain return even deeper. You enter a phase of depression that seems to last forever and, even if it is not a symptom of mental illness, it is the adequate response to the loss of an important person.
The death of a loved one is a very sad situation and depression is the right answer. If pain is part of the healing process, then depression is a necessary step to take along the way.
Acceptance is often confused with the idea of feeling good about what has happened, in reality it is about accepting the reality of the physical disappearance of the loved one, recognizing that this is the new reality that, unfortunately, cannot change, therefore you can not help but accept it and learn to live with it.
When we return to live and enjoy our lives, we feel like we are betraying the loved one who has disappeared. This is not the case, it will never be possible to replace those who are no longer there, but we will always be able to build new relationships.
Image courtesy of Mario Inoportuno.