Five Stages Of Healing

Crisis is a state that initiates a turning point in our lives. No life is free from crisis. Since adversity is inevitable, it is important to know how to survive and understand the emotional stages you go through to recover from dramatic life changes.

The death of a spouse, divorce and marital separation are high stress producing situations. At first, life makes little sense when going through a divorce. The hurt is so painful and emotions so confusing that moods swing from hostility to hopelessness. These feelings are part of the healing or adjustment process, which is long and different for each individual.

An individual passes through five (5) stages while going through the healing process. These stages last for different periods of time and replace each other, or at times coexist.

Stage One: Grief And Denial

Grief is an intensive emotional suffering caused by the loss of a relationship. It can be the result of desertion and rejection. A sense of loss exists, no matter how bad the relationship might have been. Before learning to accept your grief, you will probably deny your loss. You will think, "This is not happening to me!" Denial is a normal human defense against painful emotional experiences that are difficult to accept. It slowly gives way to the acceptance of reality. With time, you will look at your loss and accept it with courage and growing optimism about the future.

Stage Two: Anger

Anger usually follows the grief and denial stage. During this stage we ask ourselves, "Why me?" Divorced and separated individuals often surprise themselves with the anger they express over the destruction of their marital relationship. This feeling exists for the person who initiated the divorce action as well as the spouse. Often the expressed or unexpressed feeling is "Why didn't you listen to me when I told you we were having problems?" Recognition of anger helps you to move on to the next stage.

Stage Three: Bargaining

After dealing with anger, an individual may think that if he or she acts or talks nicely or "bargains," decisions may be reversed. For example, an individual may say "I promise I won't hurt you again if you give me another chance," or "I won't go through the divorce if you will just go to counseling."

Stage Four: Depression

Depression is as unexpressed anger turned inward on the self. It applies to passive individuals who believe they cannot do anything to relieve their suffering. Depression appears as one experiences a loss of self worth. This is the most difficult stage to be in, and makes one feel withdrawn and exhausted. Passive anger needs to be converted into active anger by expressing it. This allows us to see things more objectively.

Stage Five: Acceptance

Acceptance is not a happy stage. This stage makes one empty of feeling, as if the pain is gone, the struggle is over and rest is at hand. It is at this stage that faith develops and growth follows. A new life is within your reach.

A crisis can be the stimulus that breaks old habits and generates change. You must allow time to bring healing - above all, you must be willing to be a healed person.

Identify your own emotional needs and set realistic goals for yourself. Where do you want to be a month from now or a year from now?

Copyright 1988

Paul E. Gavin