Death is a part of life. Navigating it well is something that isn't talked about much and, as a result, many people feel overwhelmed or unsure of what to do when they, or someone they love, suffers a loss. Seniors in particular are more likely to face grief and its consequences.
While there is no right or wrong way to grieve, understanding how humans respond to loss can help you support a loved one who is moving through the stages of grief. A hospice program can also help provide additional guidance through these stages.
Elisabeth Kubler-Ross's classic book, On Death and Dying, provides a useful framework that outlines five stages of grief.
This initial stage is characterized by feelings of numbness, which helps buffer people from being overwhelmed by the magnitude of what has happened. These feelings should not be mistaken for a lack of caring. As the shock of the situation wears off, so will the sense of numbness and disconnection from reality.
Many people respond to conflict or distress by playing out mental scenarios of what they could have done to produce a different outcome. This is a normal stage of grieving but if it extends over a long period of time, it can cause a person to become stuck in guilt and remorse.
After denial and bargaining are over, the full weight of the loss is brought to bear upon a person. This can inspire sadness and depression, which shows up in many ways, both physical and mental. People in this stage may have difficulty sleeping and eating, low energy levels, an inability to focus, and bouts of crying.
Death has a way of making us confront our own powerlessness and this can lead to anger. After all, a loss is an intensely painful experience, and it’s one we ultimately have no way to prevent. Grieving people can feel anger at themselves, at God, at the people around them, and at life in general.
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