Grieving the loss of a loved one is a normal process that everyone goes through, but when you are grieving you may feel alone. Grief cycles are all different, but they share many similarities that can remind people just how normal their grieving is. Finding a grief model to relate to may help you cope during the difficult period following a loss.
A grief model may also help you find new meaning in life and accept the new life conditions. We chose some popular grief model theories and defined them below in an effort to break down the sometimes complex behavioral, spiritual, cognitive and emotional process into steps.
Five Stage Grief Model
Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’ book, “On Death and Dying,” describes five stages of grief experienced by people who are diagnosed with a terminal illness. This grief model also applies to the grief associated with losing a loved one. These stages can appear in any order, can overlap and can even go back and forth:
Denial: Generally, this is a temporary defense and a knee-jerk reaction to the news.
Anger: The individual now realizes the inevitability and responds with anger.
Bargaining: This stage offers the belief that the illness/loss can be postponed or reversed.
Depression: This is a key and difficult part of the grieving process.
Acceptance: In this last stage, individuals come to terms with the illness/loss.
TEAR Model of Grief
A frequently used model in professional grief counseling settings is the TEAR model. This model is most helpful when the “honeymoon” period is over. Friends stop calling because they believe the bereaved should be healed and have closure. This model assumes that when things go back to normal is when true grieving begins.
T = To accept the reality.
E = Experience the pain.
A = Adjust to the new environment.
R = Reinvest in the new reality.
Seven Stage Grief Cycle Model
Borrowing from and expanding upon the Kübler-Ross grief model, a seven-stage model contains the original five stages and fleshes it out with two new ones:
Shock/Denial: The first reaction to the loss is a numbing disbelief, which may be accompanied by denial. This provides an emotional barrier against being overwhelmed.
Pain/Guilt: As the shock fades, deep pain surfaces. It is important that the bereaved work through this phase without mood-altering substances. Guilty feelings may arise over experiences shared (or not shared) with the deceased, and life is tumultuous for the bereaved.
Anger/Bargaining: Emotions kept deep inside arise as frustration turns into anger, and bargaining frequently comes into play, begging for a way out of the pain.
Depression/Loneliness/Reflection: As friends believe the bereaved is mourning less, next comes extended sadness. The grieving person must work through this phase alone, allowing the magnitude of the loss to become apparent along with possible despair
Upward Turn: The bereaved starts to accept and adjust to the new life conditions, is calmer and more organized.
Reconstruction: As the intense pain lessens, the mind sharpens and the bereaved begins to seek realistic solutions to life’s problems.
Acceptance/Hope: In this last stage, the bereaved accepts the situation and adjusts to the new reality.
It is helpful to explore these grief models to understand that human grief is normal. It is also important to keep in mind that grieving is a very personal, individualistic process based on the many facets of the grieving person’s life.