This blog post is a continuation of a previous Udall Shumway posting entitled “The Grief Cycle, Stage Three: Bargaining”, discussing the way individuals grieve when coping with a difficult experience.

Stage Four:  Depression

After the many various attempts the mind has made to defend itself from the incoming pain and imbalance that a meaningful death or loss brings, the grieving individual is now fully exposed. At this point in the grief cycle, the griever feels the full brunt of the pain, the devastation, and the anguish.

Known commonly as ‘hitting rock bottom’, the illusion of control has been completely eroded, revealing a sense of helplessness and despair. As unfortunate it is that this is part of the process, it is actually a critical step in true coping.

Of course we do not want to see our loved ones in pain, particularly severe pain. However, many believe that this is where true healing begins. Many counselors and therapists hold to the notion that it is difficult (perhaps impossible) to cope with an experience that hasn’t truly been felt. If a person manages to navigate the loss without really exposing themselves to it full, this is often how unresolved and unfinished issues arise.

When grievers avoid the bulk of the pain, and then later unravel because of incompleteness in their path, often this is because their psychological defense mechanisms have successfully disconnected them from their pain without having fully grieved the loss.