Posted in Life Gyan

How to Overcome Grief…

No human in this world is untouched by grief or disappointment. Both grief and disappointment can be the source of a huge emotional turbulence. And surprisingly when people are dealing with change either at the personal level or at the work place they may also feel similar emotional turbulence.

There may be many instances of grief throughout our life – a wife may grieve the death of her husband, a teenager may grieve the ending of a relationship, or one may grieve the loss of a pet.  Similarly one can feel a deep sense of disappointment when their trust is shattered. Even significant events in personal life or at workplace may have a similar impact when people are unable to cope up with the change. For example a mother who is unable to accept the departure of her child when he or she leaves home for the first time for higher studies or employees unable to handle role change due to organisational restructuring or merger/acquisition.

In 1969, a Swiss psychiatrist, Kübler-Ross first introduced her five stage grief model in her book On Death and Dying. These five stages are –

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance

Kubler-Ross wrote that these are normal reactions all people have to tragic news. In fact she called them defense mechanisms or coping mechanisms. And this is exactly what they are when we apply the model to coping with change.

Also she said that we don’t move through these five stages one at a time, in a neat, linear, step by step manner. That would be far too easy! What happens is that we occupy different stages at different times and can even move back to stages we have been in before. Kubler-Ross said the stages can last for different periods of time and will replace each other or exist at times side by side.

Learning about these five stages can help us understand our own emotions and help us in coping with them in a better manner. It would be ideal, if we can reach the “acceptance” stage. However it is possible that some people get stuck in other stages and find it difficult to move on.

The Five Stages of Grief

Denial : When you first hear about the tragic news, denial or shock is usually the initial reaction.
“I can’t believe it”, “This can’t be happening”, “Tell me this is not true”
This is also a defence mechanism that gives us time to absorb the news before moving on to the other stages. It is the initial stage of numbness and shock. It is like the pigeon closing its eyes when it sees the cat. That way, It assumes that since the pigeon can’t see the cat, the cat does not exist.

Anger : When the initial shock fades away and we realize that it is real then the denial usually changes to anger. We look to blame others, God or even the government for making it happen to you. You find it incomprehensible how something like this could happen to you.
“Why me? ” Life’s not fair!”
Mental health professionals believe that anger is a necessary stage of grief – it is part of the healing process. It’s important to truly feel the anger. The more you truly feel the anger, the more quickly it will dissipate, and the more quickly you will heal. It is not healthy to suppress your feelings of anger.

Bargaining : It is an attempt to postpone the inevitable. Usually, you try to strike a deal with God. You might falsely make yourself believe that you can avoid the grief through this type of negotiation. If you change this, I’ll change that. In this stage people also experience guilt and go into an endless series of “what ifs”: What if I had left the house 5 minutes sooner? The accident would have never happened. What if I encouraged him to go to the doctor six months ago like I first thought? The cancer could have been found sooner “

Depression : When we realize that Bargaining is not going to work then the true impact of the change, the loss hits us. It can lead people to a sad state, feeling low energy, worthless and feeling depressed. Some people may even experience suicidal thoughts. the state of depression can be noticeable in the body language of the person, drooping shoulders, withdrawn from the team – thinking “What is the point of all this?

People dealing with change at work may feel demotivated and uncertain about their future. They may feel why they need to give their best when they see that the Organization is not committed towards them. During this time there may be increase in sick leaves or absentism from work.

Acceptance : In this stage people start coming back to grip with reality. They realize that denying or fighting the change is not going to make the change go away. It is not a happy place but they finally accept that the world has changed and they need to move on too. People realize that thier partner may not return but life must go on. They realize that things are not going to be same at the workplace, It’s not a “good” thing, but it’s something you can move forward from. For the first time people might start considering their options. This can be a creative space as it forces people to explore and look for new possibilities.

In this stage, you may start making new friends or setting new goals. You know that the change is here to stay but you move, grow, and evolve into your new reality.


I am a software consultant by profession and reside in Hyderabad, India. I love to travel, listen to music, cook and make friends.

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