Recovering from Our Losses: The 5 Stages of Grief

Recovering from Our Losses: The 5 Stages of Grief

In life we will encounter loss. It may be the loss of a loved one or friend, or the loss of a job, house, marriage. It even may be the loss of a dream or fantasy. In either of these cases we go through this process called grief. Many people because of society pressures or even family or self-imposed pressures mask or hide our grief to appear "strong." The truth is that this is natural process and everyone experiences grief in their own way. Before I get into the different ways people process grief, let me share with the the stages that people can go through during this grieving process.

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross Model of Grief

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross was an award winning psychologist who outlined these 5 stages of grief in her book "On Death and Dying." These stages are not only applicable to death, but also to catastrophes, diagnosis of illness (especially terminal), and any other major traumatic change of event of a person’s life. In addition, these stages don’t necessarily happen in the order listed below.


This is the "I feel fine," or "This can’t be happening, not to me" phase. Denial is the body’s initial protective defense against the loss. It is usually temporary, but the time spent in denial can greatly vary depending on the situation and the person. Ultimately, when a person leaves denial it’s the first step to recovery, but this process begins with a heightened and emotional awareness of the loss itself.


This is typically identified by the "Why me? It’s not fair!" or "How can this happen to me?" and "Who is to blame?" type statements. Many times in this stage, the person recognizes that denial can no longer continue and feelings of anger and sometimes rage ensue. Sometimes this blame and anger can be misplaced. For the friends or family supporting, this can make it difficult because they sometimes become the subject of the anger. Eventually, however, the person who is lost realizes where the true source of their anger lies.


This is when the individual experiencing the loss tries to make a deal to avoid to change, loss, or catastrophe. In this, there is a hope that they can delay or change the inevitable. Usually, the negotiation for an extended life is made with a higher power in exchange for a reformed lifestyle.


Depression or sadness is a hallmark of grief. In this stage there can be physical as well as emotional manifestations such as crying, excessive sleep, lack of motivation, decreased appetite, and even at it’s extreme isolation. This part of the grieving process is very important and allows the person to really get in touch with the feelings associated with the loss. For the supporters, it is not recommended to try to cheer up an individual who is in this stage however tempting it may be. Usually, supporters try to do this to ease their own discomfort of watching their loved one in this stage, however it is an important time for grieving that must be processed. Note that there comes a point in this stage where normal sadness can become clinical depression. I have written an article on depression that describes in more detail these symptoms. Sometimes, the griever can progress into clinical depression that needs to be addressed by a professional.


After bouncing through the aforementioned stages, finally the griever reaches a point where they know they can’t fight it. This is acceptance. Statements like "It’s going to be okay," and "I can’t fight it, I may as well prepare for it." are what come at this point. This final stage comes with peace and understanding of what is approaching or what has happened. Sometimes even after reaching this acceptance stage feelings of sadness and anger resurface. But in this case it is not displaced anger and it is with the awareness that there is nothing they can do to change the outcome.

Grief is a process that if allowed to go through fully does lead to a healthy acceptance of the loss or change that has happened or is imminent. The key is to allow yourself to experience it, and surround yourself with the proper and healthy support system that will understand where you are, and allow you to grieve fully. Know that while grief is a process you must face yourself, know that you don’t have to do it alone.

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Thursday, 19 July 2018