Five stages of grief: Better to have loved and lost…

loved and lost five stages of grief

Chris Pye writes on the five stages of grief. He echos Tennyson on the subject of lost love – better to have loved and lost.

English poet, Alfred Lord Tennyson’s reflection on the death of a dear friend led him to write an immortal line.

‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all’.

I take inspiration from Tennyson’s affirmation of love in the face of devastating loss when facing such experiences in my own life. Whether we lose a loved one through death or separation, the pain can chase us into an emotional cave, to a place where hurt can never again find us.

The problem with avoiding or hiding from our pain is that in doing so, we inevitably shut ourselves off from joy too. They are the two inseparable halves of emotional wholeness.

Five Stages of Grief

The now well-known ‘five stages of grief’ model was developed in the late sixties by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. It grew from helping terminally ill patients manage their experiences of facing their own mortality. However, it is widely applied to a variety of grief and loss experiences.

The stages of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance, were never intended to be viewed as a predictable linear process. But they help many people come to terms with the challenging range of emotions that commonly show up when we face significant loss in our lives.

Permission to Feel

Gerring stuck in denial will definitely prolong the process of grief and loss at the end of a relationship. We do it by minimising our grief. (“So many people have it worse than me.”) Or we simply pretend it’s not happening. (“I’ll be better off without them.”)

We deny our pain because we are afraid that it will break us. And that’s OK. When we are ready, we will gradually allow ourselves to feel again, and it is critically important that we reach out to the right person/people to help guide and support us as the feelings start to come.

One step at a time

When we have exhausted the denials and desperate bargaining, and we have railed and raged against the universe, we can find ourselves in a heap, emotionally numb, unable to see meaning or purpose in our lives.

Healing from grief and loss is a slow process. For an uncertain period, we must simply go through the motions of putting one foot in front of the other until we begin to feel engaged in life. We do this because we know from our own experience, or the testaments of others that it gets better. We emerge at the other end changed by our grief, perhaps more cautious and measured, perhaps more empathic. And, if we take guidance from the great poet, we even allow ourselves to open up emotionally to people again. We begin to understand that loss and love can co-exist as two parts of our rich and complex human experience.

Chris Pye is a Relationship Counsellor and Life Coach who works with individuals, couples, and teams, creating safe and supportive spaces for difficult conversations.

Book a free ‘first-step conversation’ at A Single Step.

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