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Coping with loss

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You've survived a personal crisis. But much of what you care about may not have survived. Perhaps you've lost things of great value to you, irreplaceable things that represent your past and your family's heritage. Perhaps you've lost loved ones or your home, farm or job. In the face of these losses, you may also have lost self-esteem.

When people experience loss, they also experience grief. Grief is as human and inescapable as growing up and growing old. Understanding the stages of grief, giving into them and going through them, is key to getting past the disaster and into a fulfilling future. The stages of grief are:

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance

After a disaster, you will definitely go through the stages of grief. You might not go through each stage only once, and you might not go through them in the order specified. For instance, you might move from anger to bargaining, then back again, before you move on to depression, and finally acceptance.

It is important to remember that not all people move through the stages with the same intensity of emotions, or at the same rate. These differences in how and when individuals experience each stage can add stress to relationships. For example, a husband who is in the anger stage may be very impatient with a wife who is still in denial: "I can't understand why she's still got her head in the sand." She, on the other hand, may be wondering: "Why is he so angry when there's nothing to be angry about?"



Ronald L. Pitzer, Family sociologist, and Sharon M. Danes, Extension specialist and professor in family social science

Revised 2009 by Sharon M. Danes; reviewed 2010.

Reviewed in 2018

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