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The "Numb" Phase of Shock

Updated: Sep 23, 2020


The five stages of grief are shock and denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. I have been focusing on the first stage of grief because understanding it can lead to a quicker recovery from a loss. The actions or inaction taken at this time can be crucial in creating a new foundation in a person’s life. It is often the time when a grieving individual is the most vulnerable.

I have spent the past three months describing my experience with clients during this stage. My previous articles were concerning the automatic, discovery, and isolation phases of this first stage of grief. The fourth phase of shock and the subject of this article is numbness.

There is no time limit to each stage of grief nor is there a time limit to the individual phases within these stages. Grief has no definable boundaries for time, and no amount of pressure can speed up the process. A grief cycle is unique to every person experiencing it. My role has been to witness my clients’ journeys as they travel their paths.

The grieving process must have a beginning, and shock and denial have been identified as the start of it. I have been working with people in grief for a couple of decades, having observed common traits by healthy individuals experiencing loss. My clients come from all areas of the world and from many backgrounds, but the human experience is the same. I have noticed that grieving individuals usually experience four phases in the shock and denial stage: the automatic, discovery, isolation, and numb phases. While not all people go through the numb phase, many do, and this is a common time when they come to me for a reading.

The numb phase of shock occurs when a bereaved person simply does not feel anything. They do not feel their loved one is around them, and they are just going through the motions in life. A grieving metaphysical person, or one who believes in the afterlife, often wonders why their loved one has not made any contact with them to let them know they are okay. The numbness they feel may extend to not feeling any compassion or passion for much of anything. It may be the beginning of depression, but they are still active and in the “going through the motions” phase after their loss.

This is a crucial phase for people since it can last for a few months, years, and in some cases last for the rest of a person’s life. It is serious time for someone who may or may not be able to move to the next stage of grief. Numbness may be a catalyst for unusual behavior, if viewed by an objective observer.

In a reading, it is usually very clear that the lost loved one has not abandoned their loved one. They have not left, and they remain with the bereaved. Those in spirit are going through their own adjustments but are usually thriving in the spirit world. They want to communicate that they are okay. Clients often look for validation, and this is what I hope comes through in readings. Giving specific information often assists a person in this phase because it validates their belief system and gives them some abstract sense of hope.

During the numb phase, people tend to remember the way things used to be just a short time ago. Reflecting on the recent past and exhibiting behavior such as talking out loud to a deceased loved one are common. They may also go to their favorite restaurants or visit familiar places in an effort to feel something positive and reassuring. They may spend their time watching their favorite television programs or looking to other ways to combat a sense of emptiness within themselves. It is a time when a person’s faith is very important because it helps to keep them focused on the future.

Normally, a person can rationally know they are in a different state of consciousness. They may not understand it fully, but they can comprehend that they are in a different place. It is not where they want to be, but there is no choice. While they may realize that the past is gone forever, it does not make sense to them at this time. Dealing with loss while they are in shock is not easy. They still believe their imagination is playing tricks on them. Their current reality simply can’t be real.

Numbness is a defense mechanism that helps us cope with reality. Loss hurts, and our subconscious knows this. Numbness is a protection. When our psyche is prepared to go to the next step in grief recovery, it will…but not before it is ready. Numbness is a bridge that helps us get to the next level. Grief and loss changes and stretches us. We need a dose of numbness to prepare for the second stage of grief, anger. Anger can help us heal by “burning” grief. It is an important part of healing that, when used properly, can be very helpful in making us whole again.

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