Human emotions are too complex to follow neat, mechanical procedures. Nevertheless, it is valid and helpful to recognize stages in a normal grief experience, even through the stages may not be separate and clearly distinguished.
1. Shock. Our first reaction to loss may be numbness. We may feel psychologically paralyzed. We do not know how to act; we are confused and hurting; we experience anger or fear or both. We may deny the reality of the loss and rebel against accepting the facts.
2. Acceptance. We eventually acknowledge the brutal reality. It is no longer a nightmare – it is the way things are. We contemplate the fact that though we are still here, from now on, life will be different.
3. Feeling the loss. As we try to carry on with our lives, we are confused and tired, we have little appetite, we sleep poorly, we avoid other people. Sometimes we weep, other times we feel like weeping and nothing happens. We have doubts about the goodness, kindness, and wisdom of God.
4. Living with it. We begin to separate the past, which cannot be changed, from the future, which can be affected. We are able to remember the good times associated with the lost person and to re-evaluate our new situation, even making some tentative decisions about the future. We begin to relate to other people more normally.
5. Renewal. We begin to find meaning and purpose in the present and future. We renew our commitment to life and to people, becoming involved again in their lives and taking an interest in the external world. Eventually we are able to care about other people and their needs as much as our own.
Source: Campbell, K. (1996). Those ugly emotions: How to manage your emotions (110). Ross-shire, GB.: Christian Focus Publications.