Archived Story

Letting go is the final stage of grief

Published 10:54am Tuesday, April 9, 2013

QUESTION:  Would you explain, again,  how the five stages of grief are survival tools?


ANSWER:  With his permission, I always appreciate sharing the insights of Mitch Carmody (, bereavement counselor and writer for the quarterly Minnesota Sudden Infant Death Center newsletter.

First of all, the five stages of grief don’t happen in any order but rather can sweep over us all together, separately, or in any combination for many years.  Shock gets us through the impossible.  Denial holds back reality so we can return to society and function somewhat.  Anger jumps in and out at random and usually catches us off guard or comes when we are going into or out of depression.  Bargaining is a total mind game we play with ourselves, a seemingly never-ending internal dialogue of “if this…then…” that yields us no answer but gets us through another day.  Acceptance is the stage of grief that is reflected in the phrases “letting go, moving on, getting on with our life and finding closure.”  It is very, very important to understand that in eventual healing from the immense loss in our life, we find closure with the other stages of grief, but not closure with the person or situation that has been so valuable to us.

We usually come to closure with Shock first.  As a survival tool that is temporary by nature; Shock finds closure on it own and we are no longer numb.  It is then that we truly feel the pain.

We experience Denial when we know for certain that our loss is real.  We know this is not a dream.  The valuable person or situation is not coming back.  We begin to live the pain.  Eventually we find closure in Bargaining because it is a mind game and simply doesn’t work.  That leaves us with Acceptance.  We accept the pain.  We accept our “new normal.”  In the case of the grief from death, we also accept that dead is not gone.  We do not let go of the person we love, but we learn to live with the separation from our loved one.

We “get on with life” without the physical presence of that loved person.  We “let go” of illusions about what could have been.  We “find closure” in what we cannot change and we “move on” with our new future as best we can.  We are now our parent’s, or spouse’s, or child’s or friend’s legacy.  We substantiate their life by the way we live ours. It is in this letting go that we are free to hold on.


For support, call the toll-free Parent WarmLine at 1-888-584-2204.  Check out www.familiesand

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