Explaining Stages of Grief to a Dear Friend

Stages of Grief

by Dana Terrell, LCSW, EAC

NOTE:  My friend asked about the stages of grief when we met for dinner last night.  She preferred getting an email about it, which I sent to her today.  She gave me permission to share it as an article in hopes it may help other people in addition to her. We can grief many kinds of losses:  a loved one’s passing, a miscarriage, a marriage, a job, a miscarriage, a suicide, one’s reputation.  

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross described the following stages of grief:

D Denial
A Anger
B Bargaining
D Depression
A Acceptance
“DABDA” is the mnemonic device to help you remember.
But above all, remember that stages of grief are not orderly and tidy.
It is not absolutely necessary to move through all the stages.
Sometimes the stages recycle in new and different ways.  
Occasionally a stage sneaks up and surprises you.  
That is when it is most helpful to remember these stages of grief.  
It helps you to not feel nuts.
As you know, EMDR therapy can help to smooth the way through 
the emotions of mourning known as the stages of grief.  I think the EMDR Therapy Recent Event Protocol you experienced early in your husband’s medical difficulties helped to activate your Adaptive Information Processing system.  As you said, you were processing things “cleanly” as they happened.  You cried along the way when you felt the need.
Francine Shapiro says that EMDR does not take grief away, but it can take the knife out of your heart and allow the stages of grief to unfold naturally and a bit more calmly.  This can free you up to be in the present moment for the challenging decisions that need to be made.
When I was a Hospice Social Worker and Counselor, I explained the following to my clients and their families:  often in families and groups of friends, people are in different stages of grief at the same time.
The stages can be rather mutually exclusive.  Sometimes stages of grief are mutually repulsive. For instance:  for someone in denial, it is upsetting to see someone in a more active, emotional stage.  For a person in anger, denial seems an insult and depression like “giving in.”
For anyone in the distressing stages of grief, seeing someone in acceptance is
fairly inconceivable.  That person might accuse you of not caring.  Ouch.
One solution to this is to share this info with those grieving friends and family, and encourage understanding that all stages of grief, whether emotional or calm, are ok, natural, acceptable.  For example:  if you are in “acceptance” or “depression” it is ok to empathically tell someone, “I do hear and see you are feeling angry and need to express it.  I encourage you to get empathy for that.  Right now I am unable to give it, but I hope I can sometime soon.  Do not give up on me.”
Feel free to share this with people who have difficulty with the “early” acceptance of your loss, and your joy for your dear one’s spiritual joy in heaven.  Just because peaceful joy was not mentioned by Kubler-Ross in her stages of grief, does not mean it can’t be a true stage for deeply faithful and sincere lovers of God such as yourself and your dear husband.
Note:  Dana Terrell is an EMDR therapist in the North Park 92104 neighborhood of San Diego.  She considers it a privilege to help people move through the stages of grief, and prevent their getting stuck in any distressing or limiting stage.  
Please click on her name to link to her profile page on this website.  EMDR Therapy, or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing can help people resolve their grief more efficiently than time alone.  It is a research-validated therapy that helps people overcome bad experiences more quickly and thoroughly.