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How to Help a Friend Overcome the Five Stages of Grief

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7 months ago

Here’s the thing about grief. Most of us have felt it at some point in our lives, yet it will always seem like a very unique experience when you go through it. It will feel like no one seems to understand, however hard they try. Remember this feeling when trying to be of help and consolation to a friend who has suffered or is suffering from grief.

Grief can be caused by a variety of circumstances that may include, but is not limited to:  loss of a loved one, a halting end of a relationship, a falling-out between close friends, loss of a job, or any other seemingly devastating event in one’s life.

Your friend might think that some people around their only get their to a certain degree but they couldn’t quite nail it. Of course, polite individual that he is, he will just smile and nod while saying to themselves, “they don’t understand.”

Regardless of how subjective and unique the discussion of grief could get, it shouldn’t stop us from trying to understand it. We have to be able to look at this overwhelming sense of emptiness called grief from an analytical and objective standpoint. Fortunately though, some people already did and they coined it as The Five Stages of Grief.

The Five Stages of Grief- History

The concept was originally introduced in 1969 by a Swiss-American psychiatrist named Elizabeth Kübler-Ross in her book “On Death and Dying”. The basis of her work came from observing terminally-ill people.

Her theory about grief was subsequently recognized as the Kubler-Ross model, which was originally intended for terminally-ill people trying to deal with the imminent possibility of death and permanent loss. The model was later applied to different areas where people might experience a different kind of life-altering change or loss.

Now, the key to helping a friend or someone you love overcome this difficult time in their life is to understand the predicament first. This article aims to help you provide support and comfort to someone going through it, but before that, let’s dive into the stages:

Stage 1: Denial

This stage is quite evident; especially, in situations where the devastating circumstance in one’s life happens suddenly and unexpectedly. We all have the natural tendency to numb ourselves first in order to somehow buy ourselves some time to digest and internalize the gravity of the situation before us. Simply put, your friend at this stage tends to deny the horror that is placed in front of them.

How to help:

You’re now their voice of reason. Keep a clear mind on the reality of the situation and help them think things through. Be careful not to say they’re wrong about something, instead try asking a question that will help them think about the other angles of the situation and draw a healthier conclusion.

Stage 2: Anger

As your friend takes his time to digest situations that caused their grief, the most common pattern for them is to use the emotion of anger to act out the initial frustration or bewilderment they carry. It is important to note that anger is not always loud or expressive, so don’t be misled into thinking that because your friend’s demeanor is subtle and nonviolent, he is doing okay. It could come in a form of spite or bitterness.

How to help:

Let them get upset. It’s a natural part of healing. You may have to be some of the punching bag since a lot of people easily misplace their anger. Know that it’s not personal and that they appreciate you in their life, but the pressures of life and loss feel like they’re closing in on your friend. They may respond faster or more harshly than normal. After they settle, you can express calmly that how they treated the waiter wasn’t the best and thought they’re facing a lot, being conscious of others is still important.

Stage 3: Bargaining

It is natural for your friend at this point to want to regain control of the situation they’re in. They may want to believe that when something unfavorable happens to them, they can control the outcome or “turn it around”. Note that we are all like this as human beings.

At its most prominent state, bargaining is when someone already helpless sets out to plan or execute a course of action that they believe would change the outcome of an event. At its subtlest, bargaining is when one tries to soothe his emotions with rational explanations as to why things happened the way they did.

How to help:

Just know that after a loss; especially, a close loss, the surviving party inherits all the weight. Naturally, they jump into super-fit-it-mode and attempt to fix everything. The brick wall gets hit when they realize they may not be able to fix all of it. In this moment, you can step in and either a) remind them that they have support – even if it’s just you; b) roll up your sleeves and jump into action with them, or c) help them reconcile the fact that everything doesn’t have to get done all at once and work with them to prioritize what needs to happen now. Breaking down big tasks will make things easier.

Stage 4: Depression

While anger is often the loud and resistant expression of one’s sadness and frustration, depression is quieter and is usually the more defeated state. This is when your pal finally gives in to the helplessness of a situation and usually wallows in a deep state of self-pity.

How to help:

It’s all apart of the process – allow them their space to feel and work through it. As a friend, you know they can’t stay depressed forever. Your role here is to walk with them through their depression into..

Stage 5: Acceptance

Welcome to the stage of Acceptance – it’s nicer here 😊

This is the stage when your friend has managed to look at a situation or a loss as it truly is, without diminishes or exaggeration. One may not be blissfully happy about accepting their new life without their loved one, but the acceptance stage means they have come to terms with reality.

How to help:

Know that their full recovery is not over yet and friends don’t let friends slip back into previous stages of grief. Keep an eye on them, check in, do that thing you do that cracks them up, go cool places or stay in and watch the game. Making sure they stay healthy and know they have you if they ever need to talk qualifies you for some sort of friendship award.

We know supporting friends through loss has its challenges. We also know that sometimes, friends going through the tough times don’t realize and credit their friends that help them get through. On their behalf, we say thanks for being a good friend to your pal. The world is better because of people like you.

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