The seven common phases of Grief may be helpful for loved ones to be aware that there are identified phases of, or common feelings associated with grief. One may vacillate back and forth between these aspects of grief, feeling them once or experiencing them many times during their grief journey. There may also be some phases you won’t identify with at all. Know that there is no right or wrong way to transition through these phases. You may feel one at a time or many at the same time. It is important to understand that grief from suicide is a complicated grief, for that reason these phases of grief may be very intense and leave one feeling very “raw”. Trust that all these feelings are normal, even if it makes you feel “crazy” at the time.
1. Shock is the first stage of numbness, disbelief and thinking this can’t be real.
2. Denial is an attempt to protect ourselves from this tragedy – "I don’t believe this, it can’t be true."
3. Bargaining involves making promises such as “I’ll be a better person if I could just have a “do over” of this day or I’ll do all the right things if only... or please just let me wake up and find this is just a cruel nightmare”
4. Guilt is a normal feeling characterized by thoughts or statements such as, “if only I had or if only I hadn’t done or said something. Guilt can be resolved by understanding that we are all human and we give the best and worst of ourselves on any given day. What anyone does with what we give is ultimately their responsibility. Guilt is often the hardest feeling to cope with following a loss to suicide.
5. Anger is another difficult feeling following a suicide. For many survivors they need to feel the anger in order to come to terms with their loss. This is normal. Sometimes anger is accompanied by guilt because we feel anger. Not everyone experiences anger, if you don’t feel anger than don’t create it.
6. Depression may come and go and change in intensity as one adjusts to loss. Grief from suicide is complicated and it takes a long time for people to find their “new normal” after such a loss.
7. Resignation is found in the belief that this death is real and the loss is permanent. Acceptance & hope comes when one understands that you will never be the same, but that you will go forward.
H.U.G.S. is a nonprofit community outreach program for those who have lost a family member or friend to suicide.