Caregiver’s Corner: Stages of Grief

Joan Jackson
By Joan Jackson September 15, 2011 16:36

 I know God will not give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish that He didn’t trust me so much. ~ Mother Teresa

We all face the five stages of grief when a loved one dies, but it can be shocking to recognize that we must actually go through a variation of these stages each time we face a major life change.

When a loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, when outside life is cut off as you care for a chronically ill spouse, when your own health takes a dive – any of these can precipitate a distinct grieving process.

While it’s helpful to be aware of the stages of grief, it’s also important to know that the process isn’t a straight line. Like a pendulum meeting an obstacle, newly emerging aspects of a change can swing you backward for a while. Each of us moves through these five stages at our own pace and in our own way.


Symptoms: A sense of surprise and unreality. You may try to continue to function as if the change really isn’t happening. You may put off deciding on next steps. You may experience numbness, a sense of isolation, confusion and even memory loss. Value: Denial carries you through the first wave of pain. It helps buffer the shock.


Symptoms: You may find yourself directing anger at anyone associated with the situation and even those who are not – medical practitioners, friends, family, even the dog. You may plunge into blame. Value: Anger lifts your energy and temporarily masks that awful sense of vulnerability. It helps you feel safer.


Symptoms: Feelings of vulnerability and seeking some control. Many folks try to make a deal with life. “I’ll do this, if you do this.” Value: Bargaining offers a measure of needed respite from the pain of reality.


Symptoms: These include sadness, regret, and worry about practicalities. Old losses and failures come up and vie for attention. Questions such as “who am I if…” and “what happens if…” loop and yammer. Value: You subconsciously begin to get ready for whatever is next.


Symptoms: You begin to explore options, plan realistically, and take care of yourself with more sleep, good health choices, and social contact. You notice positives. Value: You begin to move forward, to reaffirm life and to notice what feels good again.

© 2011 Friends and Neighbors Magazine

Joan Jackson
By Joan Jackson September 15, 2011 16:36