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Coping with the loss of a loved one

Photo of a grieved African woman

This week, we mourn the loss of our dear mother, mentor and friend Former First Lady of the Republic of Kenya Mama Lucy Kibaki, may she rest in eternal peace. Life and death is a reality.

The writer of the book of Ecclesiastes asserts that there is a time and a season for everything under heaven; a time to be born and a time to die. When our loved ones depart they leave their significant others devastated, lonely, lost and searching for answers.

Loss and grief is a process, there are five stages of normal grief that were first proposed by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her book, “On Death and Dying.” These five stages, shock/denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance are a part of the process.

However, not everyone goes through the prescribed stages in that order. What is important is to be aware of them and acknowledge them in the grief and mourning process.


When an individual is confronted with the reality of death, it is overwhelming and the immediate reaction is denial, this cannot be true. This is the first stage of grieving. It is a defense mechanism that buffers the shock. It helps the person from being overwhelmed by the reality of the loss and acts as a cushion and safety net.

At this stage, the world becomes meaningless and overwhelming, life makes little or no sense at this time. Denial helps the individual pace their feelings of grief and not to become totally overwhelmed presenting further threats of physical illness.


Anger is a necessary stage of the healing process. Be willing to feel your anger, even though it may seem endless. The more you truly feel it, the more it will begin to dissipate and the more you will heal. There are many other emotions under the anger and you will get to them in time, but anger is the emotion we are most used to managing. It is not uncommon to various emotions of guilt, fear, including rage.


After a loss, bargaining may take the form of a temporary truce... if only, if only. Guilt is often bargaining’s companion. This can overwhelm the grief process, depending on the reasons of death. It is at this point that most are said to bargain with. We remain in the past, trying to negotiate our way out of the hurt. People often think of the stages as lasting weeks or months.


Empty feelings present themselves, and grief enters our lives on a deeper level, deeper than we ever imagined. According to Elizabeth Ross, this depressive stage feels as though it will last forever. Depression after a loss is too often seen as unnatural: a state to be fixed, something to snap out of. The first question to ask yourself is whether or not the situation you’re in is actually depressing. To not experience depression after a betrayal of a loved one would be unusual. If grief is a process of healing, then depression is one of the many necessary steps along the way.


Acceptance is often confused with the notion of being fine, OK, all right with what has happened. This is not the case, as it is not usual to feel fine when you are mourning.

This stage is about accepting the reality that our loved one is physically gone and recognising that this new reality is the permanent reality. We will never like this reality or make it okay, but eventually we accept it.

We learn to live with it. It is the new normal that we must learn to live with. Instead of denying our feelings, we need to take cognisance to our needs, we may start to reach out to others and become involved in their lives. This is an opportunity to invest in friendships a new skill or adventure.

The death of your loved one might inspire you to evaluate your own feelings of mortality and legacy. Throughout each stage of mourning, a common thread emerges, hope, love and faith.

The writer is a relationship coach and author, Marriage Built to Last. You can reach her on; www.jenniekarina.co.ke

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