Grief – What Are The 5 Stages Of Healing?

Grief and Death are Inescapable

The reality is that nearly all of us will suffer grief in our lives to varying degrees.

There are common grieving stages that people will experience after the death of a loved one. You must remember there is no predictable path to healing as everybody’s journey after the loss of a loved one is an individual experience.

Lady sitting grieving looking out

Though death is an inevitable part of life so many of us avoid discussing the issue. Most people tend to put the thought of death into the back of their minds.

It’s unsettling when you think about your own mortality and dealing with the finality and uncertainty that surrounds death. No wonder many of us don’t wish to think about death until we are forced to.

As we age we become more aware of death.

  • from local and world news about tragedies that have occurred
  • to knowing people that have died or are dying
  • attending funerals or
  • experiencing a health scare ourselves

These can all put the spotlight on death and can leave you feeling anxious and concerned.

With a loss of a loved one leads to a process called grief.  The intensity that you experience grief is dependent on how close they were to the person and the circumstances of their death.

Grief is a natural response – No two people
grieve the same way”.

Identifying the 5 stages of grief or experiences of grief and understanding how to deal with it, is crucial to continuing on with life. The following is a brief overview of the 5 stages of grief.

What are the 5 Stages of Grief?

It is recognised that there are 5 stages of grief that people experience. These are:

  • denial
  • anger
  • bargaining
  • depression, and
  • acceptance.

During your grieving process, there may be no set order in which you experience the stages of grief. Some people go through the stages in order, but some only experience a few stages. Others may experience a stage several times before moving on. No two people experience grief in the same way.

1) Denial a Stage of Grief

This stage of grief is described as a state of shock. You can experience a feeling of isolation, numbed disbelief, and shock. You are not in denial that a loss has occurred but more so you are denying the reality of the situation.

People often ask “is this actually happening”

2) People Experience Anger in Grief

woman leaning her head onto a tree in despair and anger during grief
Denial and Anger are two emotions commonly experienced during the grieving process.

Anger can be a difficult emotion to deal with, as it’s often directed at the cause of the loss. Some people might experience anger directed at the loved one that has passed away. Others may blame the cause itself or anyone who they feel has contributed to their loss.

Some people may also blame God for taking their loved one away.

3) Bargaining is Another Stage of the Grieving Process

After experiencing a loss you can go through a stage termed bargaining. This is where you wish you could have things back to the way they used to be.

It’s a time when people regularly ask themselves the “What If” questions. These questions often include something similar to:

  • “What if the disease was diagnosed earlier?
  • “What if he didn’t drive that day”, or
  • “What if she had gone to the doctor earlier?”

Was everything done to save my loved one and even trying to “bargain” with a higher power.

4) Depression can be Experienced after Death

Depression is a normal emotional response to the loss of a loved one. You are:

Man sitting alone consumed with depression and grief
Depression is one stage of grief and is a normal emotional response to the loss of a loved one
  • confronted with the reality that your loved one has gone
  • wonder how you will continue to go on without them in your life and
  • you will often find it’s difficult to look forward to the future.

Acceptance is when the person experiencing the grief has come to terms with the fact that their loved one has died and won’t be coming back. The process of picking up the pieces and moving forward with life will begin. During this process, there will be many challenges.

5) Acceptance of Loss a part of grief

There will be good days and bad days but over time the good days will outnumber the bad days. You will realise that your loved one can never be replaced but you will start to rebuild and move onto the next stage of your life.

It is important that anybody experiencing these 5 stages of grief are able to access a support system. This support system can be your direct family members, friends or even professional organisations set up to help you through your grieving process.

Remember your grief is unique to you and so is
the period and intensity it will last for.

Note: The stages of grief were developed by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross over 30 years ago, as she listened to and observed people living with terminal diagnoses. Since the publication of her book On Death and Dying, the “stages of grief,” as they are known, have become the gauge by which all grief is measured.

Next read Why End Of Life Planning is Important.

References for this grief article:

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief Through the Five Stages of Loss. Simon and Schuster USA (2005)

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. “On Death and Dying” Scribner 1st Ed 1997, Simon and Schuster (2003)

Frequently Ask Questions

What are the 5 Stages of Grief?

Though the 5 stages are commonly experienced by people suffering grief. You must remember there is no predictable path for an individual to move through their grief. The 5 stages are;
1. Denial Stage
2. Anger Stage
3. Bargaining Stage
4. Depression
5. Acceptance of Loss

Where did the 5 stages of grief come from

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross is attributed with the 5 stages of grief from her book On Grief and Grieving; Finding the Meaning of Grief Through the Five Stages of Loss

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