Written by: Seada
I lost a little furry friend, named Binu, November 2017. Binu was an extraordinary rabbit. He would cuddle beside me as we watched television shows. He sat beside me as we ate breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Everyone who knew Binu loved him. I never knew that an animal could have the power to invite peace, love, and joy until I became a pet owner.
The month of December is a momentous month for various reasons. December may be about wrapping up the 2018 year, celebrating the successes, or experiencing feelings of past or present loss. Grief and loss happen through five stages. These stages are universal by all people; regardless of cultural, race, religion, or age.
Stage 1: Denial and Isolation
“This isn’t happening, this can’t be happening,” people often claim. Denial and isolation are typical responses in a state of shock. Denial protects our emotions. Losing a friend, family member, loved one, or a furry friend; is psychologically, emotionally, physically, and spiritually taxing.
Stage 2: Anger
You may feel anger towards the person who left you, or you may feel anger towards yourself. Anger is a secondary emotion that protects our vulnerable emotions such as pain, hurt, or disappointment. It is normal to feel angry with yourself or the person you lost. It’s important to acknowledge the anger with acceptance, instead of guilt.
Stage 3: Bargaining
Bargaining happens when we profess the “if only” statements:
- If only I was a better spouse, I wouldn’t have lost them…
- If only I tried to be a better person, they would still be here with me…
- If only I pushed them to seek medical attention, they would be here…
Bargaining is a way to deal with feelings of guilt. It’s a way of exchanging guilt for reality to have the person back in our life. We assume there is something we could have done differently to save our loved ones. It is not helpful to respond to grievers with “it was their time to go.” The sympathetic response activates deeper feelings of guilt. Instead, offer a shoulder to cry on, ask if the person needs anything, and respond with empathy and kindness. Such actions soothe the soul and allow the heart to grieve.
Stage 4: Depression
We may experience symptoms of depression, or receive a formal diagnosis. Symptoms of depression are feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, lack of appetite, lack of concentration, difficulty sleeping, lethargic, irritability, and thoughts of suicide.
Experiencing symptoms of depression is also a rational response to loss. Give yourself the time to heal by exploring your emotions and thoughts. If the symptoms prolong more than two weeks, consider consulting a physician for further health support.
Stage 5: Acceptance
Acceptance is the final stage of grieving. Acceptance is about coming to terms with the loss: an empty home, no phone calls or text messages, and the ability to enjoy life without feeling guilty or depressed. A general sense of peace or calmness is reported to fill the body.
It is okay to feel guilty that you’ve accepted the loss of this person. Experiencing such feelings is an expression of missing them. Allow yourself to feel, cry, and express your emotions. It is healthy to let go of suppressed feelings.
It’s important to note that grief does not happen in any chronological order. One day we may feel anger and the next we may feel depression, after that we may feel acceptance. The body is a supernatural living being that changes its state from day-to-day or moment-to-moment. If you are grieving the loss of a loved one, please consider engaging in individual, couple, or family therapy.
The best thing we can do in the process of healing is allowing ourselves to grieve as it comes. Resisting grief will only prolong the process of healing.