Coping With Death: Understanding the 5 Stages of Grief
Coping with death is not easy, nor does it sound appealing at first. When you lose someone you love, it can be a very painful and difficult time. You feel your heart drop and have an emptiness feeling inside. There are a number of feelings that may come, some of which may include sadness, anger, confusion, and frustration. The grieving process can be very challenging, and you may find yourself unsure of how to cope.
You probably keep asking yourself, “Why?” Then, you suddenly think that you could have done something different, especially when your loved one lost their life due to a drug or alcohol addiction. It’s unfortunately too common nowadays, to the point where more Americans die from drug overdoses than from car accidents. A new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC, shows that over 30,000 Americans die from an accidental drug overdose every year.
If that number isn’t shocking, about 2.4 million visits to the emergency room are related to drug misuse or drug overdose. But how can you cope with your loss after the fact? Coping with death is a process, and here are some tips to help you through the 5 stages of grief.
Related: Heroin Statistics Infographic
The 5 Stages of Grief
When you are coping with death, grief is the process of reacting to a loss as well as the emotional and life changes that you may deal with through a survivors experience. The length of time for grieving will depend on your personality, your relationship with the lost loved one, and the cause of death. Some common symptoms of grief consist of shock, numbness, anger, guilt, fear, anxiety, depression, physical ailments and sleeplessness. There are 5 stages of grief that commonly occur during the grieving process and these stages can help individuals dealing with a loss to identify with the emotions that they are experiencing. Here are the 5 stages of grief that are all perfectly normal if you experience, though not everybody experiences each of them or has them in the same order.
Denial can occur during the grieving process when you aren’t ready to accept the reality of your loved one’s death or when you wish more than anything that it isn’t true. Common thoughts may include, “This can’t be happening to me. This isn’t real, they’re coming back.” Denial is illustrated when you talk about the person as if they were still here, or as if they are coming back.
Anger at the death of your loved one can come in many forms. You may be angry at yourself, at someone else, at the disease of addiction, or even the world. “Why is this happening? Who is to blame?” These are common questions you may find yourself asking. Some people may get major resentments, even towards their Gods. You may even begin to place blame on people and situations.
Another stage includes bargaining, and this is where you begin to wish that you will do whatever you need to do to bring your loved one back, even though it is not at all possible. “Make this not happen, and in return I will…” People will literally pray that if their loved one can come back, they will give up anything in exchange. Bargaining can be tricky to deal with because a part of you may really believe that if you do something differently or give something else up, that somehow it will actually undo your loved one’s death, but it, unfortunately, can’t.
One of the most common stages of grief is depression. When you lose a loved one, especially when their death is from addiction, your whole world can change. You may not be able to get up in the morning, go to work, continue with your goals, or even take care of yourself how you normally would. A depression from losing a loved one can be crushing and defeating. You may feel like giving up or that you just can’t continue on. You may find yourself saying, “I am too sad to do anything.” Depression is another disease that may require treatment. Counseling, support groups, and even medication may be necessary to help you deal with depression. The reality is that being sad is a normal feeling when coping with death, but depression is a disease that lingers and will prevent you from functioning properly. It requires some form of effective treatment because depression can drastically affect your mental, emotional, and physical health.
The last major stage of grief is acceptance. You may eventually come to terms with the reality and have no other choice but to accept it since you cannot change it. You may say, “I am at peace with what happened.” But you may also find yourself saying, “I cannot change what has happened, and I accept that this happened.” Acceptance, or letting go, is realizing what happened can’t be changed. Many people who dealt with loss have accepted what happened, and shared their stories with many people.
Ways Of Coping With Death
If you find yourself experiencing any of these emotions after a loss occurs, please know that your reactions are natural, and in time, you will heal. You may never feel how you did before when your loved one is alive, but you will find a way to go on and honor their memory by doing so. Some other tips to help you cope with your sudden loss include:
- Maintain a normal routine
- Get plenty of rest
- Keep a schedule
- Exercise regularly
- Keep a balanced diet
- Drink enough water
- Draw upon inner strength
- Take it one hour at a time, one day at a time
- Find some emotional support
- Consider keeping a journal
- Don’t use any drugs or alcohol to mask how you’re feeling.
Coping with death doesn’t need to be hidden, nor do your memories of your loved one. It is also important to know that the 5 stages of grief aren’t always in order. Some stages can happen at the same time or more than once, and everybody’s length of time for this process is different.
Once you’ve gone through the five stages of grief and you’ve accepted that your loss was real, maybe you can consider reaching out and spreading awareness. You may want to find or start an organization to raise awareness for drug and alcohol related deaths and save others’ lives. You could share your experience, strength and hope with other families, because you never know who could be dealing with the same thing as you. You never know who else is coping with death and in need of support, so by you spreading your story and the feelings you overcame, it may help others.
Here are some sites and organizations that can also help you when you are coping with death and dealing with the five stages of grief.
- Nar-Anon members are relatives and friends who are or who have been affected by someone with a drug addiction problem.
- Al-Anon members are relatives and friends who are or who have been affected by someone with alcoholism.
- Grief.com is filled with support, resources, and other information as it relates to loss and the grieving process.