The Stages of Grief

Although there is no set timetable or experience of grief for every person, two models exist that help explain what grief might look like.

The stages of grief are not meant to be prescriptive, but rather a descriptive tool to help our minds understand what the abstract term “grief” tangibly may look and feel like.

You have probably been told or heard that there are five stages of grief. These stages were developed by Dr. Elisabeth Kübler, who  published On Death and Dying. They are:

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance
Kübler-Ross stressed that these stages aren’t necessarily done chronologically, and that stages may be skipped, although she opines that most people experience at least two of these stages.

Since her research, an expanded model has been listed that adapts the original five stages and adds to this understanding of experiencing grief.

Expanded Stages of Grief:

  • Shock & Denial: A numbed disbelief occurs after the devastation of a loss. A person may deny the reality or gravity of their loss at some level to avoid pain. Shock provides emotional protection from being overwhelmed all at once. This may last for weeks.
  • Pain & Guilt: Shock wears off and replaced with suffering of excruciating pain. It’s important to experience the pain fully, and not numb it artificially.
  • Anger & Bargaining: Frustration leads to anger. Uncontrolled, it can permanently damage relationships. May result in trying to negotiate with one’s self (or a higher power) to attempt to change the loss that has occurred.
  • Depression, Reflection, & Loneliness: A long period of sad reflection overtakes a person and the magnitude of the loss sets in.
  • The Upward Turn: Life becomes calmer, more organized as one starts to adjust to life with the loss that occurred.
  • Reconstruction & Working Through: As a person starts to become more functional, realistic solutions seem possible for life after the loss.
  • Acceptance & Hope: The last stage – a person learns to accept and deal with the reality of their situation. A person is more future-oriented and learns to cope.

These stages are meant to be a resource to validate and normalize different experiences while grieving. Remember there is not really a “right” or “wrong” way to grieve.

Written by: GROW Staff