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Woman organizing belongings of late husband

There were 76 million births in the US from 1946 to 1964 and the aging of these Americans, considered to be in the baby boomer generation, means that more people than ever will be facing the death of a spouse. Whether you are a baby boomer or in any other age group, the death of your significant other can be particularly difficult.

5 Stages of Grief

People grieve in different ways but most of us go through the 5 stages of grief as first outlined in the writings of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. Considered to be a pioneer on the psychological aspects of death and dying, Kubler-Ross authored the book “On Death and Dying,” which has been used in various healthcare teaching programs throughout the years since it was first published in 1969.

In her book she describes these five stages of grief - denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. She uses these stages as talking points and says that it is important to note that these stages are seldom experienced in order and are not all necessarily experienced by all people going through grief.

1. Denial - This is when we just cannot accept what has happened. We may deny it even though we know it to be true sometimes dreaming of our loved one as though nothing has changed.

2. Anger - Anger will sometimes take over our emotions. It doesn’t seem fair and anger is a common response.

3. Bargaining - In this stage we tend to try and bargain with our higher power to make the tragedy go away.

4. Depression - When all else fails and we have to face the reality and permanence of what has happened depression can hit pretty hard.

5. Acceptance - At some point through the grieving process most of us reach a place of acceptance. It is not that we forget our loved one or the pain that their death has caused but we manage to find ways to carry on with our new life.

How Long Does the Grieving Process Take?

Everyone is different when it comes to the process. Some will go through it over and over while others work through it and move on. It is not unusual to think you are all through with the process just to have something trigger another wave of grief. It can be like walking along and suddenly falling into a hole in the ground. The episodes will most likely become less often but when you find yourself triggered, the emotion can be just as painful as the day it happened.

5 Ways to Help Cope with Grief

1. Recognize your physical and emotional limits - Don’t feel guilty about lightening your load for a while. It might also be good to plan to spend holidays and those special occasions that might be difficult because of your loss with friends, family or a support group.

2. Talk about your grief with someone you trust - Talking about your feelings in a safe environment can help you to heal. You may have a friend or family member that you can talk to you or you may want to find a support group. Talking to others who know what you are going through first hand can be especially healing. Just remember that everyone grieves differently, avoid those who tell you that you are not grieving properly. You don’t need to feel guilty about how you are grieving.

3. Acknowledging your spirituality - Whatever your religion or sense of a higher power, it will be good to schedule some time for connection. This can be with a formal congregation, private meditation, listening to uplifting music or simply connecting with nature.

4. Be active - Being suddenly without your partner can take some adjustment. Try putting a schedule of activities together, it can be healing to be busy especially when it involves other people. You can volunteer, join a bowling team or sewing circle, take a class or offer to babysit for family members.

5. If you don't have one, consider adopting a pet - It can be very healing to have a new friend who relies on you and gives you unconditional love.

The death of a loved one is never easy to handle. Learning how to cope with grief in a healthy manner will allow for more manageable days in the future.

Be sure to refer to these organizations that can help during this process.