Mourning the death of a friend or family member is natural process, and according to one therapist, individuals actually go through a mental and emotional process when confronted with a loss.
Tim Desmond is a therapist and principle developer of the Coherence Psychology Institute’s two-year program for therapists.
Desmond said denial, anger, bargaining, depression, testing and acceptance are the six general stages when mourning.
“First we try to avoid what happened, next is a frustrated outpouring of emotions, then we seek for a way out,” Desmond said. “Then there is the final realization of the inevitable [death], then we seek for a way to make sense of the loss that allow us to continue living and finally we find the way forward.”
According to studentsofamf.com, a website devoted to helping college students cope with death, 35-48% of college students have lost a family member of friend within the last two years, and need help throughout the grieving process.
Keisha Bazile, 23, a senior engineering student from Miami, said she did not encounter two of the six stages when she lost a family member.
“I didn’t go through denial and I didn’t try to bargain what happened when I lost my niece. I accepted that fact as hard as it was to acknowledge,” Bazile said.
People cope differently in stressful and sensitive situations. Desmond said, “All individuals go through their own process and everyone’s process is unique.”
According to Desmond, going through these stages is not the problem to cope with death; it is the failure to move on.
“What must be stressed is that problems occur when someone gets stuck in one of the beginning stages,” Desmond said.
A person’s outlook on life may be impacted when coping with a loss.
Celestine Joseph said that her grandmother’s death affected her outlook on religion and faith.
“I don’t really have faith in God anymore. People told me to pray for my grandmother’s health and He [God] would answer my prayers and she died,” said the 23-year-old from Pensacola. “I am not afraid of death; death is just the ending of everything.”
Desmond said it is normal and healthy for people to experience all the stages of grief and to move through them at different speeds.
“If someone is still in the denial stage, he or she will not want to talk about it and they should not be made to do so,” said Desmond. “The most important thing in comforting someone is to be unafraid of their feelings.”
Joseph said, “I attend regular therapy sessions at my school. I was desperate to understand how I felt and counseling has led me to be more open.”
According to Desmond, counseling is helpful for many people during the grieving process. He said that building a support system can help throughout the stages.
“It can be good for people to organize groups for talking about their feelings after a loss, but no one should be compelled to go,” Desmond said.