The Stages of Grief Aren’t What You Think

Man sitting on a bench next to a beach walkway, leaning forward with his head in his hands, indicating grief


Death and loss are an inescapable part of life, and losing someone precious has never been easy. It makes sense that people would want a simple, straightforward map for navigating the complicated emotions of grief.


Maybe you’ve heard of the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. In some ways, these categories can help you understand your emotions after you experience a loss. But it’s important you don’t take the stages too literally or get too hung up on working through the phases like they’re steps on a journey. Because grief isn’t a linear process that moves smoothly from one emotion to the next. Grief is a tide that ebbs and flows.


Everyone Grieves Differently

No two people experience exactly the same thing after a loss. And how someone behaves or displays their grief outwardly isn’t necessarily a reflection of what’s going on inside. Some people are very stoic with their feelings in public and more emotional when they’re alone. Some people process their emotions through action. Sometimes grief means crying, and sometimes it means obsessing over getting the flower arrangements at the service just right – and neither of those reactions is wrong.


You may also have different emotional responses to different losses throughout your life. A sudden, traumatic death might trigger different emotions than death after a long illness. Losing a parent feels different than losing a spouse. And the death of someone close to you might affect you quite differently from the death of someone you’re estranged from.


None of those scenarios are simple or easy. Grief never is. But the context surrounding the loss can make a big difference in the types of emotions you experience and how you work through those feelings.


Mourning Helps with Grief

Grief is an internal process. It’s what you feel emotionally. Mourning is what you do to express those emotions. Crying, writing an obituary, delivering a eulogy, wearing black clothes, and attending a funeral are all acts of mourning.


Mourning helps you externalize what you’re feeling inside. It also helps you come together with family members others who are also experiencing grief so you can lean on each other for support. Expressing your feelings rather than bottling them up will help you to heal faster.


That’s why funerals are so important. They give an environment where people can mourn the person who died and begin taking those first steps down the path of healing.


Grief Ebbs and Flows with Time

The death of a loved one is one of the hardest things to endure. It can inspire many emotions: sadness, regret, anger, resentment, loneliness, and so much more. Many of the things you feel will fall into the five classic stages of grief, but you might feel them in a different order, skip over some stages, repeat some stages, or spend longer in some stages than in others. There is no right way to experience grief.


What’s important is that the burden of grief should grow lighter with time. You won’t stop missing the person who’s gone. You’ll always feel their absence, and you’ll always remember them. But you should reach a point eventually where the pain decreases in intensity, where the memories are happy as often as sad, where your life picks up a new rhythm and you can move forward into a new normal.


Chapman Funerals & Cremations has witnessed the tides of grief turn countless times for the friends and families of our community. Throughout it all, we’ve helped families to gather, express their grief, and begin to heal. We are here for you too in this difficult time.


For more information or to speak with a funeral director, visit any of our locations in Bridgewater, East Bridgewater, Falmouth, Harwich, Marstons Mills, Martha’s Vineyard, Mashpee, Wareham, West Falmouth, or Yarmouth, Massachusetts.

Laying a loved one to rest is one of the hardest things you’ll ever have to endure, but we’re here to make it as simple as possible.



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