Denial - Five Stages of Grief
Denial is often considered to be the first phase in the Five Stages of Grief model introduced by psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her much-lauded book “On Death and Dying.” Later expanded with her co-author David Kessler, the five stages of grief has become one of the most popular theories to describe how people handle the grieving process. While not everyone will experience the denial stage, those who do may experience profound emotions of disbelief at the sudden change in their lives. Read on as Titan Casket discusses various ways that the denial stage of grief can play a role in healing after loss.
What is the Denial Stage of Grief?
When someone is forced to deal with a profound loss, the potential impact on their lives can be too great to understand immediately. Denial sets in as a way of protecting them from the intense emotions that surround the loss. By entering into the denial stage of grief, your mind is given more time to adjust and process the loss. It’s a coping mechanism that will help you handle the grief event -- be it death, a terminal illness diagnosis, or divorce. As the denial, numbness, and shock begin to recede, the suppressed emotions will come to the surface. While that may feel overwhelming, it is a critical step in the grief journey.
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What Does the Denial Stage of Grief Look Like?
Denial starts with shock and the refusal to acknowledge the reality of the loss. When it involves the death of a loved one, it may manifest itself in the unwillingness to arrange end-of-life services, go through the departed’s personal items, or visit the final resting place. When someone is diagnosed with a terminal illness, their denial stage of grief may include refusing to finalize a will, preplanning end-of-life celebrations, or even notifying friends and family. In fact, a terminally ill person may be unable to accept the diagnosis as accurate. They may need to believe that lab work was incorrect or that a treatment option has been missed.
The denial stage is also common when a relationship ends. Someone may prefer to believe that the split is temporary due to a fight and that all will be well soon. Likewise, people have been known to enter the denial stage when faced with sudden job loss. Their coping mechanism allows them to believe that the layoff or firing resulted from a mistake that will soon be rectified.
How Long is the Denial Stage of Grief?
There is no set timetable for processing grief. Someone may only experience momentary shock and disbelief as they pass into and out of the denial stage, or they may need considerable time before they start acknowledging and dealing with the changes in their life. Give someone experiencing the denial stage the necessary time to protect themselves from the devastating impact of loss. They will eventually come to understand their new reality. Each person’s grief journey is unique and will happen at their own pace.
How Can I Help Someone Going Through the Denial Stage of Grief?
It is critical that someone experiencing any of the five stages of grief, including denial, has a supportive network of friends, family, and colleagues around them. If they are exhibiting signs of denial, they may not be able to form new connections or relationships that could offer assistance.
Do not be afraid to reach out to a person going through the denial stage of grief. Allow them to talk about their loved one, their fears, and even their denial. As they voice these thoughts and emotions, they are also beginning to process their grief. If their denial lingers for a considerable amount of time or interferes with their ability to make critical decisions, you may want to connect them with their trusted religious advisor or qualified mental health professional. You may also want professional assistance as the bereaved moves from denial into anger or any of the other five stages of grief.
The information provided above is not meant to replace expert medical or mental health advice. If you or someone you love is having difficulty coping with loss, please reach out to a qualified mental health professional.
Do you have other questions about any other issues relating to mourning and end-of-life services? Titan Casket is here to help you get the funeral you want at a fair price. Contact us in the chat window or here to get started.