It’s true what they say – absence does make the heart grow fonder. It’s not just absence; change makes the heart grow fonder, too. The first stage is denial. Not denial that the change has occurred, but denial of missing the old way. In this stage, the most common symptoms are listening to angry music, often about the altered person or place being destroyed. If no such songs exist, the patient will often find him or herself composing their own angry music. This stage is also known as the creative stage, because it is the most productive of the five phases.
Next comes anger. This anger is not, as previously thought, directed at the world in general, or even internally, but towards the lost presence. Some subjects may find that they enjoy blaming the change on things that can obviously not be responsible. It seems they take a perverse sort of pleasure in knowing that they cannot explain why the change has occurred.
The third stage of the process is bargaining. In the old literature, this refers to bargaining with a god or gods, but we now know that the bargaining is with a patient’s own self. Perhaps they will promise themselves that if they get time alone, they will use the time to work through their feelings about the change, but these mental deals rarely come to fruition. This is the most passive of all the stages, sometimes called the ghost stage.
Next comes depression, a misnomer as this is the second most active phase, after denial. Of course, modern research has shown the entire process to be somewhat passive, but there are varying degrees of action within it. The depression is a conscious pushing down of the subject’s feelings towards the change, in some ways a regression from bargaining. However, in time it will prove to be a necessary step, as it represents growth. The patient no longer believes they can bargain themselves into dealing with the change, and instead knows they can choose whether to deal with it or not.
Finally, if the process has not been side-tracked at one of the previous phases, the subject will move on to acceptance. Contrary to popular belief, this is not acceptance of the change. Instead, it is acceptance that the patient has to deal with the change rather than suppress its effects. This acceptance will, with time and effort, lead to a new understanding of the world now that the change has come to pass.