The 7 Stages of Grief & 5 Tools to Heal Your Heart
At some point in your life, heartbreak will happen. When it does, you may try to suppress your feelings, hide from the world, or even feel that you’ll never be ready to enter another relationship. You may feel overwhelmed with sadness, but it’s important to un-derstand that grieving a loss is not only normal, but completely healthy! Allowing your-self to grieve — to feel the feelings that are present — will actually help you heal more quickly.
You’ve probably heard that grief comes in seven stages. These stages apply to losing a loved one in any way, whether it be by death, estrangement, or the end of a relation-ship. Understanding where you are in the process can help you move through the sad-ness more quickly. So, let’s check out the normal grieving process we all experience af-ter a loss:
Step 1: Searching for Answers
After the loss of a loved one, you may feel desperate for answers. “Why did this happen?” “Is it my fault?” “Am I unlovable?” This search for answers can leave you teetering between disbelief, anger, sadness, and a desperate need to talk to someone – anyone – who can help you understand what went wrong.
Step 2: Denial
You may feel a sense of unreality as you try to fathom that you are no longer able to connect with a loved one. This denial can be unsettling and will likely lead to continuing on as if nothing happened. You may begin to close yourself off, and stuff painful emotions away where you don’t have to feel them.
Step 3: Bargaining
To avoid this new reality, you may refuse to accept the loss of your loved one. You may attempt to bargain for a second chance with the person you are separated from, or a higher power if your loved one has passed on. You may take re-sponsibility for everything that has ever gone wrong in your relationship, but it’s im-portant to remember that relationships are a two-way street. Both parties contribute to the demise of a relationship, whether it be romantic or familial. Therefore, bargaining is simply a distraction from heartbreak. It’s a way to make yourself feel in control of a sad situation.
Step 4: Relapse
Relapse is common, and often occurs when you refuse to accept your new reality. You may try to rebuild a lost relationship in hopes of a different outcome, or you may return to a state of denial and searching for answers if you have lost a loved one to death.
Step 5: Anger
When you’ve reached this stage, you’ve made it “over the hump” and you’re on your way to feeling better! Anger can actually be empowering because you’re remembering that you are also important. This anger can motivate you to move forward, redirect your path, and set new goals. (Just remember to be kind to your family, friends, and loved ones!)
Step 6: Acceptance
This stage is defined by surrendering to the situation; accepting that this loss is a part of your journey in this life. Once you have accepted this reality, you will feel more prepared to move forward.
Step 7: Hope
In this final stage, you will find new hope. It may even feel like the sun has come out from behind the clouds. You’ll realize that life will continue on in spite of loss. This hope comes from the faith that your life has a grand plan; that you are worthy of the many blessings life has to offer.
I should note that everyone moves through the grieving process at a different speed, and you may even skip between different stages. However, understanding the normal process of grief can be very empowering. It helps you understand that you’re not alone, and may even help you see the “light at the end of the tunnel”.
Ok, now that we understand the process of grief, let’s get to the good stuff: how to handle the sadness and heal your heart!
Talk it Out:
Talking to close friends and family about what you’re going through can be very therapeutic. It helps you release your sadness, and loved ones can make you real-ize you’re worth at a time when you may feel vulnerable. If your grief is overwhelming, talk to a professional, such as a life coach, therapist, or pastor, who can give you some perspective and methods for coping with grief.
Write it Out:
Write down your thoughts and feelings, whatever they may be, then dis-pose of them. This practice can help you get in touch with your deepest thoughts and provides a release of negative emotions.
Be Nice to Yourself:
Take time to nurture yourself by doing something life-affirming. Try to avoid unhealthy coping mechanisms, like eating that entire pint of ice cream! Go for a walk, get a massage, buy a new outfit, read a good book, or meditate. Show your-self that you’re worthy of love and attention. Check out my Heart Healing Meditation: http://www.steveguarino.com/guided-meditations/.
That’s right, cry. It’s ok! Crying is a gift. It’s like hitting a physical and emotional “re-set” button. It not only helps you get rid of negative emotions, but also rids the body of excess stress hormones!
Don’t Fear the Future:
Most importantly, you must remember that you have a choice: you can allow fear of future loss to close your heart or you can accept this opportunity to work through the pain. Only you can make the choice to open your heart and trust that everything will work out for the best. This doesn’t mean that you’ll never experience heartbreak again. However, it restores your hope and opens you up to love in the future.
Lastly, remember that heartbreak is not permanent (though it may feel never-ending) and life is unpredictable. We never know when heartbreak will occur, but we can’t let the fear of the unknown prevent us from embracing all of the beautiful moments life has to offer.
P.S. From my own personal experience, meditation is a great tool to begin the healing process. I’ve created a guided meditation specifically-designed to help you move past heartbreak by reducing stress and anxiety, releasing pent-up anger and guilt, and calm-ing your fears about the future. You can check it out here.
About the Author:
Steve Guarino is a certified integrative life coach, self-help author of Make Peace with Panic Naturally, and teacher of guided meditation. He is passionate about helping others find peace and happiness in spite of the life challenges they may be experiencing. Now that he is free from panic attacks, he enjoys spending time with family & friends, writing, traveling, and many other things that he struggled to do previously. Read more about Steve and his work here.