The Four Stages of Grief

AKA: How Much Longer Until I Feel Good Again?
by Laura Dawn Lewis
Regardless of age, every human being experiences loss at some point in their life.  For most of us it is the grieving over the loss of a beloved pet that first introduces us to the process. Later we encounter the stages when relationships end and loved ones die or when we  lose a job or give up a bad habit like smoking. We all must go through the stages of letting go or become stuck in the symptoms of the stage we never finished. These stages are the same for any loss.  They are called the Four Stages of Grief.

Definition of Grief:

The emotional depiction of great loss accompanied by a sense of hopelessness, anguish, denial, anger and confusion.

For this article we are going to focus on the grief caused by relationship break-ups, separation or divorce.  The steps are the same for any loss.  The questions you ask yourself are the only thing that change.

How Long Does it Take to Get Over a Relationship?

How long it takes to experience all four stages varies. Contrary to popular opinion, it is not necessarily the amount of time you have invested in the relationship that determines the difficulty of recovering from it. Anyone who has ever had a crush and been rejected can attest to that. What does determine the amount of time to recover is your personal involvement in the matter; even a five-week fling can take two or more years to recover from. However, for serious relationships, experts agree it takes half as long as the relationship lasted to fully recover. Therefore, if you were married ten years, anticipate five years of recovery. Recovered means you think occasionally of the person, but they no longer remain an influencing factor on your emotions, decisions or life. You will no longer avoid events because he or she might be there. You no longer dread running into him or her unexpectedly. You will no longer talk about her or him to dates unless specifically asked.  You no longer dwell.

This doesn't mean you will be miserable and a basket case for five years.  It just means occasionally you'll have temporary lapses within the period usually on days or during the times of the year that held special meaning. This person is part of your past.  His or her influence upon your life helped create the person you are today.  Be thankful for that. Whether that person you are today is angry and negative or hopeful and anticipatory depends on how well you navigate the grieving process.  This can hold you back or you can consider it training wheels for the real relationship just waiting for you to finish this lesson. It can be the stone that sinks you, or a stepping stone to greater things. Which it becomes is up to you. Are you a victim or a survivor?  If you're a survivor, keep reading.  TOP

How to Use the Stages

I first used the 4 Stages of Grief while trying to get over a particularly difficult relationship six years ago after learning about them in counseling. The first time I broke off a serious relationship, it took me four and a half years to finally let it go, (just one of the reasons I was in counseling!).  That was too long and I wanted a more productive and less painful way to move on.  This second relationship gave me the reason.

By using the stages I was able to figure out what was going on in my mind and why I was feeling the way I felt. The questions I asked removed the emotions and forced me to focus on the truth. This was hard.  I don't always like to face facts, especially inconvenient facts. But the stages also provided me with a great comfort.  I knew there was an end to the tunnel and I knew what I would have to go through to get there. Especially in the denial period.  Prior to using the stages I had a nasty habit of going back to old relationships, trying to revive them and realizing after about four months why I left in the first place.  The grieving would start over again, only each time it was a little worse.  The denial questions forced me to be honest with myself and left no room for embellishments or romanticism.  Whenever I started to backslide, I re-read the questions. TOP

The acceptance questions I use often and consider it a small victory each time I can check one off.  When I can check off about half, I'll start dating again. Until I can check off every single question without hesitation, I know I still have a little work to do.  Knowing what is going on, this is what the stages do. They remove the uncertainty (you know what to expect) making a very painful process more tenable (you know if you do the work, everything will be okay).  The uncertainty is replaced with tasks and these tasks point to and deliver an end.  When your mind is a jitterbug of conflicting emotions, the stages provide reason, reassurance and calm. This is how I use them and why I want to share them with anyone getting over the loss of someone. Whenever I experience a loss now, I look forward to anger and rage because I know the rage means it's almost over. I no longer fear anger.  Today it is a reason to throw a party.       TOP

Nobody likes to feel the emotion of pain, and most of us will do anything we can to get away from it. People are allergic to pain, especially emotional pain. Yet pain is a part of life and like anything negative, there is always a better positive to be gained in the end. What you gain is yourself and a richer life through the process of introspection and change. So, given the fact that you are reading this, you are no doubt experiencing a loss. Do not lose hope. The following pages will help you find out where you are and they will tell you how far you have to go. So let us get started with  Stage One: Denial

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