As someone who has been a student in the counseling field for many years, I have heard a lot about the stages of grief. I have researched them, taught them to clients, and read about them endlessly. However, dealing with grief on your own is a lot different from helping someone else get through their own.

Recently, I wrote a post on teaching your child about grief and loss. I have focused a lot lately on helping my children understand the grief of losing someone so close to them, and helping them process it in their own terms. However, it has been difficult for me to use the stages of grief for myself, and to think about the effect that it is having on me. You would think that someone who is getting their Master’s in this field would be able to… but it’s different when you have to actually use the information for yourself. Through the loss of my brother and the stages of grief, I have learned a lot about life and what is important... as well as what isn't.

From my years of studying and time spent working in this field, I have seen that the 7 stages of grief do not always come in order, exactly for the same amount of time, or separately. In truth, the stages of grief might come a few at the same time, completely out-of-order, or for different lengths of time. You may experience one stage and then come back around to it after you thought it was over.

For me, the stages of grief that I have experienced since losing my brother have been all over the place.

It seems like some people want you to bounce back and pretend like nothing happened. Others want to coddle you, and want you to be an emotional wreck around them so that they can come in and save the day. When going through grief, there is no rule book on the way that it will go. I will say this, with absolute certainty, it will teach you a lot about life and about who you are.

The Stages of Grief and Life Lessons

  • You may want to make impulsive decisions. There are a few things over the past few months that I have decided I randomly want to do or changes I want to make, and have quickly turned around to realize that those probably wouldn’t be the greatest choices to make. Emotions can make you impulsive, which is one of the reasons why I feel they are a blessing and a curse at the same time.
  • You find out who is meant to be in your life, and who isn’t. Grief changes people. Depending on which of the stages of grief an individual is in, they may be extremely pleasant to be around, or they might be a nightmare. This could change day-to-day to be perfectly honest. One day may be okay, and you think the storm is passing. The next day you might feel guilty and heartbroken. The following day you might be angry at everyone and everything. The people who are meant to be in your life will be the ones that stick around on the good and the bad days. They will be the ones that listen to you cry and sob on the phone, or just sit next to you with tears rolling down their face while you talk to them. The ones who aren’t meant to be in your life will quickly come to light, and I for one am thankful for that.
  • Your eyes are opened to the things that are truly important in life. Material things, success, wealth… those things are put to the side when you loss someone or something that was such a huge part of your life. You quickly realize, again, something that you knew all along. Family and those that are important to you should always come first. You should make time for the people who you want in your life, as they should make time for you. Life is precious, but it is also short, so don’t waste any of it by investing time in the people and the things that really don’t matter.

No matter what stage of grief you are in, or what type of grief you have experienced in your life, know that the lessons we take from it can be used to better ourselves. I choose to better myself and to live the best life that I can for the brothers and the father that I have lost. I challenge you to do the same.

*Here’s to those people and the things we have lost. May we be better because of that*

joanna at motherhood and merlot