Grief is not a linear process. Makes sense why we would think so - we live in a linear world. Most of us view things as having a beginning, middle and end but not grief. Grief isn’t reserved for losing a loved one either. We can grieve the loss of an ideal, missed milestone, lost childhood, job loss or betrayal. We can also get stuck in a grief stage. Hollywood loves to make movies about it, e.g. the couple in denial who continue to believe they see their deceased child or the bitter widow who turns to alcohol to cope. Even the DSM-V - the statistical manual for mental health disorders - categorizes stuck grief as a major depressive disorder if someone hasn’t reached the acceptance stage by 6 months. People can also get stuck in a grief stage if they’re using substances to cope, which prevents emotional processing. Grief gets a bad rap because it’s an uncomfortable process, especially in Western society where it’s common to grieve behind closed doors. Alone.
If you find yourself confused and/or overwhelmed by the different stages and emotions, that’s normal. If you find yourself getting angry when people expect you to be sad, that’s normal. It’s your process. A general rule of thumb is to ask yourself if the grief is interfering with your quality of life and if YOU determine that YOU feel stuck. If so, there are ways to move through the grief. It’s not an easy or painless process, but it’s possible.