The Stages of Grieving

By Jenn Rockefeller

Grieving for the loss of a loved one is difficult enough as it is. But when that loved one is lost due to domestic violence, grieving can take on a life of its own. There are no rules in how to grieve, nor is there a timeline for it. It may make us wonder though – what are the stages of grief and how are they used to help someone move through grieving for a loved one?

Stages of grief
The website Psycom discusses the five stages of grief originally developed by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. These five stages discuss what a person goes through when they lose a loved one. It’s interesting to note that these stages do not need to be followed in the order listed. In fact, a person can move through the stages and bounce back to an earlier stage at any time. 

  • Denial – When a loss first happens, you might experience instant denial. You might not want to believe the death happened. You begin to think about how you will go on without this person. You don’t want this loss to be real, so you deny that it even happened. You don’t want to believe the news, so you pretend you are living in some alternate reality. It’s like you are saying there’s only so much that you can take, so you block so many of the feelings from reaching you. As time moves on, those feelings that you squelched begin to move to the surface.
  • Anger – Once the denial begins to fade, you might begin to feel anger. You might begin to wonder why – why this happened to you and why couldn’t this have happened to someone else. You might even begin to blame others for what happened. Holding the anger in is not healthy, so it’s okay to feel it.
  • Bargaining – You can sometimes catch yourself in this stage if you’ve ever begged for the death to not be true. Maybe you’ve negotiated with God or promised to go to church more if you could just have your loved one back. This is the stage where you will enter the “what if” world – what if you were there to help your loved one or what if you noticeed the signs of domestic violence earlier. You would do anything and give anything just for things to go back to what they were before.
  • Depression – This is the stage of reality. You move to a total empty feeling as if you can never feel whole again. You are living in a fog and you can’t see clearly. You just “go through the motions” of your daily life. You’re numb, withdraw from life and don’t feel like really doing anything fulfilling. 
  • Acceptance – There is a misconception about this stage of grief. It’s not about thinking what happened is okay; but rather, accepting the new normal that even though your life won’t be the same, you begin to realize that you will be okay. The fog will begin to clear and you will begin to adjust to your new normal. You realize that you will have your bad days, but the good days will soon outweigh the bad ones. You will reconnect with people in your life and learn that your loved one will always be with you.

Interestingly, the website, by David Kessler, discusses a new book that Kessler published. This book talks about a sixth stage of the grieving process – finding meaning. Kessler “gives readers a roadmap to remembering those who have died with more love than pain; he shows us how to move forward in a way that honors our loved ones.”

Losing someone to DV
Losing someone to domestic violence is somehow completely different than other losses. That’s not to say that those other losses don’t have meaning or significance, but when you lose someone to domestic violence, it’s a more sudden and immediate loss that does not provide closure. It also doesn’t give the loved ones left behind a chance to say goodbye.

This sudden change is all too true for Laura Dimery. She lost her sister and niece due to domestic violence. 

“When I found out the tragic news about Jennifer and Kelsie, my world came to a stop. I was mad at the world for continuing to turn. My heart was shattered and I didn’t know how to move forward. I looked into several support groups on Facebook and reached out but no one ever responded, until I reached out to BTSADV [Break The Silence Against Domestic Violence]. They responded immediately and have always been my support for six years now,” she explained. 

“I was invited to the Angel Family Retreat two years ago and I debated on going because I didn’t know anyone really and I felt like I wouldn’t fit in like I do on most things I’m invited to. I met some amazing people who are my family now and I realized we all fit together like pieces of a puzzle. I know I can reach out to any of them and they will be there. I still grieve for Jennifer and Kelsie and I always will, but I know that my BTS[ADV] family grieves with me just like I grieve for their loved ones.”

If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, there is help. You can visit the Break the Silence website at or chat with one of our helpline advocates at 855-287-1777.

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