Understanding the 5 Stages of Grief

Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross developed stages of grief that she believes that people go through whenever they experience a loss. Grief is defined as the feelings that someone experiences as a response to loss.

In my previous blog I mentioned that because of the death of one of my grandmother’s I actually was stuck in the first stage of grief, denial. After coming to terms with my denial the day of the funeral I moved quickly through the other stages, skipping bargaining and ending with acceptance. The amount of time they experience each stage differs depending on the individual. The time spent in each stage can last from moments to months depending on the circumstances surrounding the loss. Finally if a person has a terminal illness they too will experience the stages of grief as they come to terms with the ending of their own life. When someone experiences a loss they go through one or all of the stages of grief. The five stages of grief are:

1)denial and isolation 2)anger 3)bargaining 4)depression 5) acceptance

Denial and Isolation

The first stage of grief -- denial and isolation --is not accepting that the death has actually taken place. People sometimes can withdraw from normal social contact.


The second stage is anger. It can show up as anger at the person that caused the death as in an accident. It can show up as anger towards the person that has died. It can show up as anger towards a higher power or God for taking the loved one away.


The third stage is bargaining with a higher power to recreate the health in the person that is dying. Bargaining happens when a person tries to change the outcome of the dying person by offering better behavior themselves.


In the fourth stage is depression a person can feel a range of emotions including numbness, anger or anxiety.


The final stage acceptance happens when the strong emotions begin to fad and the person accepts the reality of the loss.

It is important to create space in your life to experience ranges of emotions that come with the experience of grief. This is part of the normal process of life and death.

This includes creating self-care habits for yourself and asking for help from friends as needed. Be willing to go through the five stages of grief. This allows each of us the let emotions come through and be released so more complex emotions will develop over time.


Medicinenet.com – Information on Grief: Loss of a Loved One. Web. 15 Aug. 2011. http://www.medicinenet.com/loss_grief_and_bereavement/article.htm

Memorial Hospital – information on 5 stages of Grief. Web. 15 Aug. 2011. http://www.memorialhospital.org/library/general/stress-the-3.html

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