The Five Stage of Grief

At some point in our lives we will all face the loss of a loved one or something dear to us. Grief does not always have to be related to a death of a human being.  It could be the loss of something dear to us (i.e., loss of a spouse through divorce, a prodigal child, or when a child leaves the nest/home) which causes us to enter into a period of grief.  Sometimes grief seems unbearable, but grief is actually a healing process.  Grief is the emotional suffering we feel after a loss.  Certainly, the death of someone, the loss of a limb, even intense disappointment can cause grief.  The following is what is referred to as the Five Stages of Grief:

Stage 1 – Denial and Isolation:
At first, we tend to deny the loss has taken place, and may withdraw from our usual social contacts. This stage may last a few moments, or longer.

Stage 2 – Anger:
The grieving person may then be furious at the person who inflicted the hurt (even if she’s dead), or at the world, for letting it happen. He may be angry with himself for letting the event take place, even if, realistically, nothing could have stopped it.

Stage 3 – Bargaining:
Now the grieving person may make bargains with God, asking, “If I do this, will you take away the loss?” 

Stage 4 – Depression:.
The person feels numb, although anger and sadness may remain underneath.

Stage 5 – Acceptance:
This is when the anger, sadness and mourning have tapered off. The person simply accepts the reality of the loss.

During grief, it is common to have many conflicting feelings. Sorrow, anger, loneliness, sadness, shame, anxiety, and guilt often accompany serious losses.  Having so many strong feelings can be very stressful.  Grief passes more quickly, with good self-care habits.  It helps to have a close family, church and friends.  It also helps to eat a balanced diet, drink enough non-alcoholic fluids, get exercise and rest.  Most people are unprepared for grief, since so often, tragedy strikes suddenly, without warning. If good self-care habits are always practiced, it helps the person to deal with the pain and shock of loss until acceptance is reached.

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, M.D. (July 8, 1926 – August 24, 2004) was a Swiss-born psychiatrist, a pioneer in Near Death Studies and the author of the groundbreaking book On Death and Dying (1969), where she first discussed what is now known as the Kübler-Ross model or the five stages of grief.  She named theses as five stages of grief people go through following a serious loss. Sometimes people get stuck in one of the first four stages. Their lives can be painful until they move to the fifth stage – acceptance.

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. On Death and Dying. New York: Macmillan, 1969.
Gill, Derek L. T. Quest: The Life of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. New York: Harper & Row, 1980.


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