Melissa Martin - Boldly Courageous

The 5 Stages of Grief

Hello, love! I’m so grateful you’re here! Welcome back to Boldly Courageous, a podcast created for you — the ambitious woman who is ready to take action and step fully into the life you’ve always dreamed of. 

We are living in a crazy time. We’ve just been through an election, and the outcome is still up in the air as ballots are being counted. You might be in a situation where your candidate doesn’t win, and in that case, you might experience a sense of loss and grief. I’ve been there — I have grieved the loss of my sister, who passed away after her battle with leukemia, my marriage, and my network marketing business. 

Grief is not easy, but we can always support each other. So today, I want to talk through the five stages of grief. My hope is that you will feel so loved and supported after reading this post and that it will help you navigate through any grief you may be experiencing. 

My Introduction to the Five Stages of Grief 

In 2019, I found myself in a situation that was rather unexpected. My network marketing company that I had been building for seven years changed their compensation model, and as a result, the way I earned income completely changed. I lost all of my income within 60 days, and I was devastated.

During this time, I struggled with a lot of grief, so I decided to reacquaint myself with the “Five Stages of Grief” — a theory originally created by psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. There are many different variations of this theory (some with seven stages and others with more than ten), but today, we’re going to focus on the original five. 

Looking at my grief journey through the lens of those five stages has really helped me process my emotions in a healthier, gentler way. Not only that, but this system has also helped me normalize loss and grief because, after all, grief is a part of life, right? Not to be morbid, but every single one of us is going to die at some point, and every relationship will end eventually. And of course, we’ll experience loss unexpectedly in so many different areas of our life. 

The five stages of grief have given me the framework I needed to ask for help, recognize where I am in the process, communicate my feelings better, and help those who are in the grieving process, too. 

Rather than forcing you to suppress your feelings, understanding the five stages of grief gives you a greater sense of awareness of your current situation and how to heal. I think it’s important to note that grief is not linear, right? There’s no set time frame, and even though there are five stages, you may go back and forth between them. Knowing this has helped me give myself grace as I’m moving through it all.

It’s almost been a year since I transitioned out of my marriage, and I still catch myself in moments of grief. My sister passed away in 2000, and I still miss her dearly. But that’s okay because grief isn’t something you just “get over” — it’s something you work through. When we know how to do that healthily, we’re able to grow so much as a result. If you’re unfamiliar with the five stages of grief, keep reading because we’re going to walk through them all today! 

Stage #1: Shock and Denial 

Imagine picking up the phone to hear that you’ve lost a loved one, your boyfriend cheated on you, or you have cancer. What’s your initial reaction? 

How could this happen? Is this true? This can’t be what really happened! 

The first stage of grief is typically shock and denial, and it’s a phase that helps us cope with the immediate realization of what’s happened. We may find ourselves thinking, “This is only temporary,” or, “It isn’t as bad as it seems.” By thinking these thoughts, we give ourselves time to cope with reality by not facing it head-on.

A lot of people are experiencing shock and denial in our current political state. The election results are in, and people are having difficulty accepting the outcome. Some people are claiming that the election was a fraud, and I think this may come down to that initial shock, right? The brain has difficulty processing a reality that did not align with its expectations. 

If you find yourself experiencing shock and denial right now, know that it’s okay to feel those things — it’s a natural response to a stressful circumstance. However, you can’t sit in shock and denial forever. Eventually, it will become time to start processing your emotions, and that begins with Stage #2. 

Stage #2: Anger

After denial and shock, the next step is usually anger. Our emotions start to bubble up, and their energy is channeled into one direction: anger. 

Maybe you’ve started directing your anger at people — family members, coworkers, and friends. You’re not actually mad at the person, but you just have all this anger and you don’t know where to put it. Or perhaps, you like to direct your anger towards objects. You feel the urge to hit and break something.

I just want to scream at the top of my lungs! I’m so frustrated I could kick something. Stop bothering me!

When we feel this way, we’re recognizing that whatever is happening in our lives is deeply triggering us and that we need to direct that energy out of ourselves. This is a really tricky phase because we often feel out of control. We may snap at people, break something, or have a breakdown in a public place. 

Personally, when I was going through this phase after my network marketing company restructured, I kept having all of these resentful thoughts about the company. I thought they were scumbags. I was so mad and so so angry. I was completely blaming them for everything.

I think it’s really important to have awareness around this stage because it’s absolutely normal to feel those emotions. Sometimes, shame and judgment can come up during this stage, and you can feel guilty for operating in a low vibration. But love, give yourself permission to be angry. It’s okay to feel frustrated, confused, and mad. What’s important is that you channel this anger into something helpful, like released writing. 

Released writing is where you write all those angry, negative thoughts in your head on a piece of paper, and then you burn the paper. Or, you can try screaming into a pillow or maybe even dancing! I know it sounds weird to dance when you’re angry, but when you move your body back and forth, you’re channeling all that negative energy into something positive.

Whatever you do, don’t feel shame for feeling angry. That anger is there to help you work through your emotions — don’t suppress it. 

Stage #3: Bargaining 

After feeling super out of control with your emotions all over the place, you may experience Stage #3, which is bargaining. Bargaining can feel like a great way to regain control when you feel out of control. 

Before feeling the weight of sadness and grief, you may start asking yourself a lot of “what if” questions:

What if I had worked on this sooner? What if I had said this to him? What if I had gone to therapy sooner?

In this stage, we are negotiating with ourselves, trying to figure out if we could have changed the outcome if we had somehow changed the circumstances. By now, the anger has usually calmed down a little bit, and we’re preparing to enter into the next cycle with a more balanced headspace. 

Stage #4: Depression 

The fourth stage may be the hardest — depression. Reality has started to settle in, and you’re faced with an outcome you can’t ignore. You may start feeling a lot of heaviness in your chest and some dark feelings coming up. Maybe, you just want to be isolated and not talk to anyone about what you’re feeling. 

Depression is like sitting in a dark, foggy room. You may feel overwhelmed with sadness, or maybe you feel numb and apathetic. Whatever the case, you don’t feel like anything can make you happy anymore.

What’s the point in even trying anymore? I don’t know how to move forward. I’m so lost. 

This stage can last for a very long time, and it’s probably the stage in which we need the most support. When my sister died, so many people surrounded me with love and support. But then, everyone eventually had to go back to their normal lives, and I was left picking up the pieces myself. This can feel really isolating and frustrating, mainly because you have no idea how to move forward by yourself. 

If you’re in the depression stage right now, don’t forget to check on yourself and ask for help. And if you know someone who is experiencing depression, reach out to them and ask how you can help them. As someone who has lived in the Northeast, it absolutely SUCKS when you don’t have hope during a long winter. It means so much when people check on me when I’m going through a hard time, and I know it means a lot to my friends when I reach out to them. 

Remember this, love — depression is temporary. It will get better. Processing all these emotions and feeling the weight of sadness actually helps us work through grief. That being said, depression is very difficult, and it’s never too late to ask for help. 

Stage #5: Acceptance 

Acceptance is the stage that everyone looks forward to — the time where you no longer hurt anymore, right? Well, not exactly. 

Acceptance does not necessarily mean moving past pain. It doesn’t mean that you’re “over it,” but it does mean that you’ve accepted the situation as your new normal. This is your new reality, and you can start taking the steps toward building your new life. 

This outcome was not the one I wanted, but it’s my reality. Instead of living in the past, I’m going to work with what I have and create a better life for myself. 

Even after acceptance, you’ll still have bad days. Sometimes, the grief will come rushing back — it does with me. But this is part of life, and it’s completely normal. What matters is that you’ve found a way to keep moving forward.

Give Yourself Grace When You Grieve 

I know grief can be a touchy subject, but I don’t think we don’t talk about it enough. Grief is something that everyone experiences on some level, and the grieving process deserves to be normalized. When you’re aware of the five stages, you normalize the process for yourself and others, and you remove shame or guilt. 

Remember that everyone grieves differently, and that the process is not always this linear. You don’t necessarily have to start with Stage #1 and end with Stage #5. There is no set time frame for this. I have literally felt all five of these emotions within three days. 

Maybe you’ve just lost a job, transitioned out of a relationship, or received some bad news about your health. Whatever you’re experiencing right now, know that it’s okay to feel those emotions. Sometimes the judgment that we place on ourselves does more harm than the actual event that caused us grief. We must learn to give ourselves grace, especially when we’re grieving. 

I actually did a podcast episode last week about the dangers of hustling through a funk and why it’s important to allow our emotions to surface. If we try to push past the pain, we never confront it, and it eventually comes up later. But if we sit in it, give ourselves permission to feel, and ask for help, we open the door for healing. 

Babe, I’m sending you so much love today, no matter where you are in your process. If you enjoyed this episode, tag me, @themelissamartin, on Instagram with a screenshot of the episode and your greatest takeaways. I’d love to support you on your journey to acceptance.

If you enjoy the Boldly Courageous podcast, it would mean so much if you would subscribe and leave a five-star review over on Apple Podcasts — that helps us get this message out to more women and expand the Boldly Courageous community!

I love you all so much, and I’m so grateful for you. Until next time, keep being boldly courageous in pursuit of healing and happiness.

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My name is Melissa Martin, and I’m here to be your wing woman as you gain the tools and confidence to face your fears head on.

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