The grieving process varies from person to person in terms of the order in which one experiences the stages of grief and how long it takes to go through these stages. Some people may start with anger, while others may start with denial. The stages of grieving can also be experienced more than once. However, each step helps with the healing process.
Grief is usually divided into five stages:
- Denial - Denial is a stage where one can try to believe that the death has not occurred. One may feel numb, or in a state of shock. Denial is a protective emotion when a life event is too overwhelming to deal with all at once.
- Anger - Anger is a stage in which you are very upset and angry that this tragedy has happened in your family. One of the best ways of dealing with bursts of anger is to exercise or participate in another type of physical activity. Talking with family and friends, other parents who have lost a child, and the hospital staff, may also be helpful.
- Bargaining - Questioning God, asking "Why my child?" and "What did we do to deserve this?" are common questions in this stage. Guilt is a primary emotion during this stage. Searching for something that you personally did, which could have contributed to the death, is all part of bargaining. It is important to remember that there is nothing you or your child did which contributed to the death.
- Depression or sadness - This is a stage in which the death of a child can no longer be denied and parents and siblings may feel a profound sense of sadness. This is normal. It may be accompanied by physical changes such as trouble sleeping or excessive sleeping, changes in appetite, or difficulty with concentrating on simple daily activities. It is important to talk about depression with a healthcare professional such as a social worker, or counselor, or meet with a support group to help you cope with these feelings.
- Acceptance - Acceptance is the stage in which you have accepted death and are at a point where your child's death has been incorporated as part of your life. You have made an adjustment to the loss. This does not mean that you will never feel other emotions, but usually families find that they are better able to manage their lives overall upon reaching this stage. Some resolution has taken place with the child's death. This may include your religious and cultural beliefs and practices.