4 Stages of Grief and Why They Are Important To Know If You Want to Ease The Pain You Feel
With pet loss, the stages of grief and bereavement are the same as any other major loss. In 1969, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, a world renowned psychiatrist and authority on death, outlined the various stages which include the following:
1. Shock/Denial/Numbness. We cannot believe this has happened to us. Our body and emotions numb themselves against the pain. The mind denies the loss. Often we will say things like “This can’t be true.” One of the valid reasons for memorials and funerals is to acknowledge that death did take place, that our beloved will no longer be with us in body.
2. Fear/Anger/Depression. After the numbness wears off and we are once again able to feel, all of our repressed feelings come roaring back. Sometimes these feeling are not rational at first and can seek someone to blame, either an outsider or ourselves.
“I can’t share how sad I am about my dog, because my co-workers will think I am crazy. But, on the other hand, I inquire about their child’s cold and buy their stupid Girl Scout cookies to support them. It isn’t fair! Oh God, please don’t let me start crying at work again. I heard someone call me a drama queen and say; It’s only a dog, not a child. I just need someone to acknowledge my sadness.”
3. Understanding/Acceptance/Moving On. We finally realize that the world will continue to turn, that loss is a natural part of the cycle of life and that we will make a new and different existence without our loved one. Moving on does not mean forgetting the lessons we have learned from our loved one. We have the memories and experiences of good times as a foundation for the remainder of our lives.
4. New Hurts may Trigger Old Wounds. You may have denied yourself the right to go through these steps with an earlier pain. Perhaps you muffled your emotions with food, drugs, alcohol or sheer force of will. Now, that you are more open and your heart is raw and vulnerable, these areas of past loss may come forth and need to be healed. Give yourself the gift of healing and letting go of old pains and resentments that can keep you stuck.
Each individual will experience and express grief in his/her own personal way. You or the friend who receives this book as a gift may find the stages are not always followed in sequence and indeed may have to be revisited many times before the heart is healed.