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When people view a change as loss, they go through a grieving process. There are several stages people go through in such a case (Figures 4 and 5). Decision making abilities are affected differently at the various stages.
The first stage is shock and denial. Fear, confusion, and a general numbness characterize this stage. People often blame others in this stage for what is occurring. A need for decision making is often not recognized at this stage because people deny that there has been a change.
Anxiety, irritation, frustration, and shame characterize the next stage of the grief and loss cycle, usually identified as the anger stage. Decision making is very difficult for people in this stage because their energies are so involved in the emotions of the situation.
The next stage, depression or detachment, is an overwhelming sense of the "blues" and a general lack of energy. This stage is often accompanied by a feeling of helplessness. People in this stage have difficulty finding the energy to make decisions on their own. They often need the help of others to do so. If a person becomes clinically depressed, they will need help from a professional to move out of this stage.
People don't go through these stages of grief in a neat step-by-step fashion. They may flip back into an earlier stage. How quickly one goes through the grief and loss cycle depends on the intensity of meaning that a person has placed on the change.
People become more open to alternatives when they enter the dialogue and bargaining stage. They have a desire to tell their story because they are struggling to find meaning for what has happened. As they enter the acceptance stage, they become more open to exploring options and developing a new plan of action.
Entering the acceptance stage doesn't mean that people like the change, but they have begun to incorporate it into their lives. At the end of this last stage, people are again empowered to make decisions because they have meaning in their life again. However, things are not exactly the same as prior to the time of the change.
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