Grief is an overwhelming emotion akin to extreme sadness and usually a result of the loss of a loved one, a favorite pet or even the loss of an imagined future. Sufferers often find themselves feeling numb and distant from current events – often, they find keeping up with their job, hobbies, housework or even social interaction to be energy draining activities. So much so, that they isolate themselves from others during their grief.

Grieving is a process, rather than a specific emotion, and that’s why it’s a different thing to sadness.

The bad news is that the process can last several years. It all depends on how adaptable a person is to their lives being different to how they might have imagined it.

If you, or someone close to you, have been grieving for what seems like an unnecessarily long time, yet seem stuck in a cycle, then it may be necessary to consult a health care professional.

Each of us has developed a coping mechanism to deal with grief. A coping mechanism is basically a worldview we have adopted. In other words, we choose how we are going to see the world. Strictly speaking, everyone’s worldview differs, which is why grief (and other emotions) affect different people in different ways.

How we arrive at this worldview is a result of the grief process. While the world view will differ from person to person and will be dependent on each individual’s circumstances, the process itself is remarkably similar.

The 5 steps of the grief process are:

1- Denial – refusing to accept the situation
2- Anger – the release valve for great emotion
3- Bargaining – the “if only” stage; if only we had done this or that we wouldn’t be in this position
4- Depression – sadness seeps in
5- Acceptance – we accept the situation and stop struggling with it

The amount of time each step takes will vary from person to person. While some people progress through these stages quite slowly, others may move rapidly through denial, anger, and bargaining only to end up stuck in depression for a long time.

It’s also possible to return to grief after a long period of acceptance, proving that grief has long term effects. What’s important is that the person grieving does not hinder their progression through these stages by indulging in compulsive behavior or substance abuse, as doing so will only hinder the process.