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Stages of grief – Still Breathing

17 March 2020
Our favourite characters are trying to make sense of a world without Trent.
Stages of grief_article

Unfortunately, everyone has experienced grief over the death of a loved one, and if not, it is a sad guarantee.

At this stage on Still Breathing, Abi and her tight-knit group of friends have said a formal goodbye to Trent at the funeral, and at the private gathering they had after the service. They are going through the grieving process.

In her 1969 book On Death and Dying, Swiss-American psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross penned her theory about the stages of grief, which are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. While not everyone will go through each stage, it is also worthy to note that people can experience the different stages to varying degrees, and not necessarily in that sequence. According to the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG): "They don’t always go in this order, and they don’t always happen to everyone. But this is a general road map to grief."


Combined with the shock of receiving bad news that the person you love is gone, it is easy to be in a complete state of disbelief. The SADAG recommends that people should make the experience more real by doing things like reading the obituary and attending the funeral. "Acknowledge your emotions, but don’t let them control you." The organisation also recommends speaking to a professional therapist if you find it extraordinarily difficult to let go.


This can manifest in so many ways while mourning: anger at feeling powerless, anger at God for taking the person away, even anger towards the person who has passed on. The key to get through this stage, says the SADAG, takes time and acceptance. "Allow yourself that time. Find a way to channel your rage." The recommendation is to take up a new hobby or even mark the anniversary of the death in a significant manner, if some time has passed. Writing a letter to the person who has died is also a good way to channel your feelings.


This is when, just before the loss, people say things like "what if…" or "if only". But we are often powerless in the face of death. SADAG suggests that acceptance is needed to realise it was simply how life progresses. "There was very little we could have done differently. We learn we live in an imperfect world, that we are imperfect people, and that life is imperfect."


Feeling incredible sadness is normal when you are mourning and don't feel guilty for going through it. "It is important to allow yourself to feel the sadness," recommends SADAG. But if this carries on for an extended period, it is best again to seek professional help.


As hard it is, there comes a stage when you can live life again without the person who has left you, and this is acceptance. You will always love them and remember them fondly, but have adjusted your reality to their absence.

"The death of your loved one might inspire you to evaluate your own feelings of mortality," reads the Psychcentral website.

"Throughout each stage, a common thread of hope emerges: As long as there is life, there is hope. As long as there is hope, there is life."

The story of family, love, and heartbreak continues next Thursday at 20:00 on #MNet101. Follow the conversation with #StillBreathingSA on Twitter (@MNet), Instagram (@mnettv), and Facebook (@MNet).