When experiencing grief after violence, the seven stages of loss can take different forms and affect our emotions in different and confusing ways. Here we talk through these stages together.
Read Time: 4 Mins
Though there is some debate regarding the stages of grief, varying from 5 to 7 sections, there is an evident journey or process that most people go through. When including grief caused by violence these stages can become muddled as we try to process not only the loss but also the coupling anger and need for justice.
Today we are going to work through the seven stages of grief in relation to violence, and include some of the difficult emotions that follow this form of loss.
The Seven Stages
The first stage is shock. During this stage, people often experience numbness and disbelief. Unlike loss after illness or age, loss through violence is frequently unexpected. This means the people grieving cannot emotionally prepare for the loss of a loved one and instead remain in this stage for a longer time. Though everyone experiences grief and loss differently, it’s important to be aware of the varying acceptance stages a person goes through when grief is unexpected. When helping someone else or yourself during this stage, it’s important to remember the basic requirements a person needs to live healthy. This means eating, drinking and getting some fresh air. Though these are only simplistic tasks they are needed to maintain basic mental and physical health.
Denial . This stage quickly follows stage one as we reject the loss as a form of coping mechanism. Denial during grief after violence can be particularly difficult if the media is involved, as it brings the incident into the real world before we are ready. During this stage, many people can experience an urge to return to normal life before the grieving process has fully begun. Though we recommend a routine that is maintainable, jumping back into your life before the loss so early on can be detrimental, leading to a longer grieving process. It’s not unheard of for people to be in this stage for months or even years before they eventually choose to accept the loss. If a person is stuck in the denial stage counselling is highly recommended.
Anger is stage three. Perhaps the most prominent when experiencing grief after violence, anger is often targeted at a specific person or persons who caused the loss. This anger can led to a need for redemption or justice as we want the cause to feel the same negative emotions we feel. This stage also isn’t helped by the thousands of films and books that focus on revenge after loss. However, the world inside these books and films greatly varies from reality and we must trust in our legal system to provide a worthy outcome.
This stage can also be the seed that develops into survivor’s guilt, which is most prominent during stage four.
The bargaining stage. This stage is very much like a ‘why?’ stage as we question why we weren’t the victims instead, or if there was anything different we could have done. This stage is also the main area in which survivor’s guilt occurs. When we experience survivor’s guilt we frequently subject ourselves to a form of self-punishment as we blame ourselves for the loss. For people experiencing survivor’s guilt, we recommend counselling but if you are the person helping someone else during this stage, we encourage frequent companionship and reassurment. Remind the person struggling that they were not in control and that only the person/s who were violent are to blame.
We cannot bring the loved person back but we can dedicate their memory and life to positive influences. When we go through the bargaining stage, we must remember that we cannot force the grieving process and instead can begin dedicating little items or areas to preserving of their memory.
Depression. Depression and low mood can take many different forms and so discussing these emotions with trusted people will help you work through this stage. We recommend bringing in a routine that includes enjoyable energetic activities that encourage exercise and possibly teamwork. Doing little activities once or twice a week will help you through this stage when coupled with open conversations. Perhaps joining a book club or a new online forum will be of benefit when struggling with low mood.
The second to last stage is testing. This stage often comes on without us really noticing. Slowly we have better, happier and more frequent good days, with only a few low days. Though the low days still occur they will be less common and can instead take the form of remembrance.
The grieving process isn’t always linear and so try not to feel defeated if you experience a sudden and full-wave of low days after having many good days. Grief is a journey and journeys vary all the time. Be patient and remember that this process is personal to you.
Acceptance. This stage might feel a million miles away at the moment, but it can and will happen. During this stage, our grief is no longer insufferable instead is a reminder of the love we have for the person we lost.
The seven stages of grief all represent personal journeys that each of us must go through during our life. Grief after violence however can have some influence in the way these stages are worked through. Reminding yourself that no one is pushing you to grieve quickly or ‘get over’ the loss before you are ready is an important tool that should be used when experiencing low mood and difficult times. Live On is here to continually provide you with the resources you need during your grieving journey and we will always offer a hand to anyone needing help.
Visit our Helpful Websites page for links to helplines and other centres. There’s no shame in asking for help.