Time magazine listed some important myths about the grieving process that are actually quite liberating, and therefore I believe important for you to know. For starters, there is no proof that you must grieve in stages. You may not ever feel denial or anger or even depression.
Further, a 2007 JAMA study found that acceptance is actually a widely experienced emotion by those who are grieving, and it is felt even in the early stages by most. In aJAMA letter to the editor about the study, George Bonanno, PhD and Kathrin Boerner, PhD stated:
“Acceptance of the death is purported to be the final stage of grieving. However, in their study, acceptance was the most frequently endorsed item at every measurement point.
Even in the earliest months of bereavement, the mean frequency of acceptance experienced by participants was between daily and several times a day, significantly more than any other grief item. These data are consistent with other evidence associating acceptance of death with widespread resilience to loss.”
The study also revealed another departure from the usual five stages — participants were more likely to say they felt a yearning for their loved one than they were to feel anger or depression. Again, this signals that you very well may not feel the five emotional stages of grief you may think you will, and, in fact, you may feel emotions that are entirely different.
Your Grief is Unique to You
For some, the loss of a set grieving process may be an unwelcome change. You may want to feel that you have a guide to get you through a difficult time and look forward to checking each stage off your emotional process until you reach the final stage of acceptance.
However, your grieving process, whether over the loss of a loved one, a job or other opportunity, a relationship or a pet, is going to be a unique process to you.
You might feel denial and anger, but you might not. You might feel depressed, or you might not. It’s important to open your mind to the notion that whatever you feel during your grieving process is OK, and likely exactly what you need.
As Time magazine reported, research shows that people who used “repressive coping” (directing their attention away from their negative emotions) after a loss felt less depression and anxiety and experienced fewer health complaints than those who expressed their negative emotions freely. So if you feel like you don’t want to talk about your feelings of grief, that’s OK too.
Research has even shown that people who avoid confronting their loss experience similar levels of depression as those who actively work through their emotions. This doesn’t mean you should ignore the situation by any means, it does further support the point that grief does not follow a set standard, but rather flows differently depending on the individual.