5 Stages of Grief
A Young Widow's Grief Process

If you are looking for the traditional version of the 5 stages of grief, please read my page entitled Kubler-Ross Stages of Grief. This version is my own creation based on my experience and conversation with a few widowed friends. So how valid is it? Well every grief journey is different and so is ours. However we’ve noticed some similarities in our grief process. And every individual’s experience is valid. So read it and see how it compares to your, just as valid experience.

In a way it is still terribly oversimplified. But how can anyone language such a multi-faceted journey? There are still many ups and downs throughout the process, and all the varying emotions of grief swirl throughout these “5 stages of grief.” However this is how it feels to me standing on the cusp of five years and looking back.

  1. Robot mode – Socially functional, I went through the business of life but internally I was completely numb and somewhat clueless to what just happened. Robot mode lasted roughly 4-6 months.
  2. Cave woman mode – I holed up inside myself and rarely engaged the outside world in any deep and meaningful way. I did what I needed to in order to survive and shut the world out the rest of the time. Although I was telling myself and indicating to the world that I was conquering this thing called grief. This way of being lasted almost 2 years following John’s death.
  3. Grief hits the fan – About the time I’d convinced myself and the world I was doing a wonderful job of recovering, I found myself in an Olympic-sized pool trying to keep 52 beach balls completely submerged. The grief hits the fan stage hit around the end of year 2 and lasted until I gave up and realize I’d never keep the beach balls down. (Perhaps the overachiever in me took longer than some.) Eventually, I started to swim around with my beach balls, and somehow they gradually lead me into stage four.
  4. Creating my healing – Utter desperation led to the point where I had to find some creative outlet to work out my pain. I started writing poetry and did photography. I have friends who used quilting, scrapbooking, and gardening as creative outlets.
  5. Finding the new normal – this is when the bereaved feels fully engaged in the new season of their lives. When I first heard a therapist say this happens 5 to 7 years after a significant death, I scoffed. Well I was in the conquering cave women mode, but it turns out the therapist knew what she was talking about. New normal doesn’t mean that grief is completely done and over. It just means you’ve incorporated it into the story of your life. I’ve heard it said, you live with the hole in your heart but it no longer is sucking energy and joy out of your life and therefore is no longer your focus. I’m starting to feel like I am there.

So how would your 5 stages of grief correlate with these? Perhaps you see some similarities or perhaps your journey is completely different. Every journey is unique because every individual is unique. Care to share your experience with us? Or offer reflections on my 5 stages of grief? Your experience is just as valid as mine. Use the form below to share.

Read more about Stages of Grief.

More articles on the grief process:
7 Stages of Grief
Dealing with Loss through Photography
Grief Definition
Stages of Grief Scrapbook Journal
Recovery from Grief and Loss
Trauma Awareness and Healing

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