Stages of Grief

As you come to terms with your loss, your emotions may come in waves. You cannot stop the process but understanding why you are feeling that way can help. Grief affects everybody differently. You may have learned about the 5 Stages of Grief originally defined by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. While that theory was developed specifically with people coming to terms with their own terminal illnesses, it can also help others dealing with grief. In considering stages of grief, it’s important to recognize that the stages are not linear – we can cycle through different stages at different times. Grief is a natural process that follows its own timeline. Loss is not generally something we “get over,” so much as we learn to incorporate it in our new life while we continue to move forward in life. (DerSarkissian, 2020).

Kubler-Ross’s original stages of grief are:

Denial: It is natural to say to yourself, “That is not happening,” when you first hear of a loss. You may be startled or numb. This is a temporary solution to the rush of intense emotion, which is a protective defense mechanism.

Anger: As the truth sets in, you may become enraged. You can feel powerless and irritated. Your anger may be directed at yourself, the lost loved one, other people, a higher force, or life as a whole. It is normal to be angry with a loved one who has died and left you alone.

Bargaining: During this phase, you consider what you could have done differently to avoid the loss. “If only…” and “What if…” are common thoughts. You may attempt an agreement or “bargain” with God to mitigate your pain.

Depression: When you begin to come to terms with the loss and its effect on your life, sadness sets in. Crying, sleep problems, and a loss of appetite are all symptoms of depression. You might feel helpless, remorseful, and lonely.

Acceptance: This is the time where you embrace the fact of your loss in this final period of grief. Even though you are still sad, you will begin to move forward in your life. That does not mean that you have forgotten the loved one you have lost.