Three Stages of Grief: Tips and Techniques

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Stage One: Shock

The first stage of grieving is shock. A person does not believe the news, and essentially becomes numb.

Tips and Techniques

When family members are in the shock stage and cannot believe the news about the diagnosis or death, they need to:

  1. Talk to someone about the news and their feelings. The person with the diagnosis and the family should share their feelings with each other if possible and with other family members. It may be helpful to use expert listeners, such as trained clergy, mental health counselors, social workers and nurses. Support groups are wonderful helps.
  2. Be with people they love who can provide support.
  3. Hear genuine caring, not suggestions to "fix" the grief. Empathy goes a long way.
  4. Be encouraged to keep lists of schedules, noted of callers and appointments marked on calendars. It’s easy to forget things during this stage of grief. Reminders can be very helpful.

Stage Two: Adjusting

The second stage shows the beginning of the adjustment process.

Tips and Techniques

People in the second stage of grieving can be encouraged to try some of the following techniques to deal with their grief:

  1. Realize that what is lost, but remember what remains each day. They can use their remaining abilities and skills to enjoy the company of the ill person and to do things together.
  2. Physical exertion is a good way to deal with anger or frustration about the situation. Swimming laps, golf, walks, scrubbing the floor, waxing the car or furniture, trimming bushes or making bread help vent intense feelings.
  3. Sometimes getting out by themselves and looking at peaceful scenes such as a flower garden, going to a museum to view rich colors or having a quiet time at a local church, chapel or synagogue can bring relief.
  4. Writing down feelings on paper can help. Sometimes it helps to keep a diary to review past experiences and gain some perspective. Sometimes it helps to wad up the paper filled with words and toss it vigorously into the trash, a symbol of throwing away the anger.
  5. Expressing oneself in painting or music also helps.

Stage Three: The New Life

The third stage of grief is the new life stage, when a person takes steps to move on to the next phase of his or her life.

Tips and Techniques

People who are in the third stage of grief should be encouraged to:

  1. Seek the company of a pet, a friend or support group if they are feeling lonely or isolated.
  2. Do something that is different or fun. Indulge in a movie or special treat.
  3. Be with people. Go to a sports event or a free lecture at the public library. Being around happy, healthy people can be healing.
  4. Try to remember what used to be fun and who used to be fun. Renew former activities and friendships.
  5. Volunteer: Help others as a way to help themselves. Share what you have learned in your journey with others who are just beginning their journey.

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