The Denial Stage of Grief: What You Need to Know

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“One more day, one more time, one more sunset, maybe I’d be satisfied. But then again, I know what it would do. Leave me wishing, still, for one more day with you.” — Diamond Rio

Grief can hit you when you least expect it. This emotion is that uninvited guest that barges in, breaking down the door in the process, and into our lives when we least expect it. And it doesn’t come alone. No, it brings with it a barrel full of intense and confusing emotions. 

In the stages of grief, the first stage is denial. Denial is a defense mechanism our minds activate to protect us from this barrel of emotions and the harsh reality of living in the world without our loved ones. 

Also Read: The Five Stages of Grief :Be Your Own Healer

But what is about the denial stage of grief that starts it all? What is denial and how does it manifest? How can we move past this stage and onto the next to complete the cycle of grief and move towards healing? 

Let’s answer these questions – and more – in the article. Keep reading to know all there is about the denial stage of grief. 

The Denial Stage of Grief 

When we’re in love, we look at the world from a rose-tinted frame, right? Well, that’s what happens with grief too. When you’re in denial, you wear a tinted frame to block the tragedy from your sight. Out of sight, out of mind. Denial is the refusal to accept the truth of what has happened. It’s a shield you erect to protect yourself from the pain of your loss. 

During the denial stage, you find yourself thinking and saying things like, “This cannot be happening” or “It’s a mistake” – it’s your mind’s way of holding the shock and allowing you to process the overwhelming emotions that accompany grief. 

These intense emotions I’m talking about can vary greatly in the denial stage of grief. From disbelief to numbness and even careful detachment – you may experience it all. You might even feel as if you’re living in a state of fog, unable to grasp the reality of your situation. 

It’s common to experience this surreal feeling as if you’re watching all of this happening to someone else or watching it all unfolding from a distance, as a sense of detachment and dissociation fills your mind and bones. 

Now, talking about the mind, various thoughts come across when you’re in the denial stage of grief. Your thoughts at this initial stage can be along the lines of disbelief and well, denial. You may find yourself bargaining with a higher power, hoping that if you pray hard enough or make unrealistic promises, time will turn back, and this will all become a distant nightmare

Your thoughts, during the denial stage of grief, are a desperate attempt to reclaim control in a situation where control feels out of reach. 

Examples of denial in grief

Some common examples of denial in grief can include 

Refusing to talk about the loss 
Avoiding places, people, and topics you associate with the lost loved one 
Clinging to the belief that this is all wrong, a nightmare if you will 

You may also experience physical symptoms at this point, such as 

Loss of appetite 
Difficulty concentrating, and 
A sense of hopelessness  

Why Do We Deny?

Denial happens as a way for our unconscious mind to protect us from the intense grief and loss we face. It’s a defense mechanism of sorts that allows us to gradually come to terms with the reality of the situation rather than being overwhelmed by it, all at once. Denial gives us the time to process our emotions and begin to integrate the loss into our reality and understanding of the world around us. 

When we talk about the duration of the denial stage of grief, it can depend on from circumstance to circumstance. Various factors can impact the duration of the denial process – from the nature of the loss to your coping mechanisms. For some people, the denial stage can only last for a week or two, while for others, it can take months or even years to process through the stage and move on to the next stage. 

Experiencing denial can be challenging as it calls for us to confront the uncomfortable truths and face the pain of our loss, quite head-on. It can, at times, feel like you’re swimming against the tide of emotions, struggling to find that life raft to hold on. However, denial is a natural part of the grief stages and with support, time, and a thorough understanding of the grief process, you can learn to charter the sea of emotions well. 

How to Cope With Grief in Denial 

Here are some ways you can cope with grief and move on to the next stages of grief, and one more step closer to healing; 

1. Acknowledge Your Grief 

The first step of the process of grief and coping with it is to acknowledge your feelings, no matter how uncomfortable they might be. Allow yourself to experience the full brunt of the emotions that come with grief, without judgment or criticism. 

2. Seek Support 

Know that support plays a huge role in coping and moving forward from the denial stage of grief. Surround yourself with your friends, family, or a support group who can offer you comfort and understanding. Talking about your feelings can help you process them and cope with the grief. 

3. Take Care of Yourself 

You need to take care of yourself during this difficult time as well. This includes physical and emotional care. Eat well, get enough sleep, and engage in activities that bring you comfort. Self-care is important in helping you cope with your loss, stress, and all the grief that comes with the loss. 

4. Live Mindfully 

Another way to cope with denial is to practice the art of living in the present. Staying in the present moment can help you focus on what you can control. Mindfulness exercises such as deep breathing, meditation, and gentle movement exercises can help calm your mind and reduce feelings of anxiety and overwhelm. 

5. Find Healthy Coping Mechanisms

To cope with denial and grief, you need to find healthy outlets for expressing your emotions whether you do it through journaling, art, music, or other physical activities. Expressing yourself creatively can help release pent-up emotions and can also act as an act of release or catharsis. 

6. Create Rituals 

If it helps you, you can create some rituals or traditions to honor the memory of your loved one and find comfort when the grief is too strong to let go of. Rituals can also act as a physical marker of moving through the denial stage. You can light a candle, visit their favorite place, or share stories with your friends and family, for starters. 

7. Seek Professional Support 

If you’re struggling to cope with the loss or find it hard to move on from the denial stage of grief, then you can talk to a professional grief counselor. They can offer guidance and support as you move through the grief stages. 

Remember, healing from grief takes time, so be patient and allow yourself to grieve at your own pace. You don’t have to rush through the stages of grief as there is no right or wrong way to grieve. It’s OK to experience whatever it is you’re feeling. If you still need help, you can seek help from a counselor. 

Book An Appointment With a Therapist HERE

Denial becomes an issue when it begins to interfere with your day-to-day functioning. It can prevent you from processing your grief healthily. If the denial stage of grief prolongs or leads to self-destructive behaviors such as substance abuse or self-isolation, then don’t hesitate to seek professional support and help. 

Wrap Up…

The denial stage of grief is a natural (and necessary) part of the healing process. It gives you time to come to terms with your altered reality and how to integrate the loss into your life, meaningfully. When you accept your feelings, seek support, and take care of yourself – mind and body – you can learn to charter the waters of denial and land on the shore stronger and more resilient. 

You’re not alone in your pain, and there is support available to help you move forward and cope with the intense emotions during this difficult time. 

I hope this article helped you understand what is the denial stage of grief, what happens in denial, and how to move on from denial. Let us know what you think about the article in the comments section below. 

Take Care!

The post The Denial Stage of Grief: What You Need to Know appeared first on Calm Sage – Your Guide to Mental and Emotional Well-being.

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