The 5 Stages of Grief

In 1969, Psychiatrist Elizabeth Kubler-Ross developed the theory – ‘5 Stages of Grief’. The theory suggests that we go through five distinct stages of grief after the loss of a loved one – Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance.

The grief cycle is a framework that serves as a guide to help individuals with their emotional reaction when struggling to deal with the loss of a love one. In general, most individuals experience most of the stages, though in no defined sequence and some may even return to the pervious stage at any time.

The 5 Stages are:

Denial 

This is not only an attempt to pretend that the loss does not exist, you are also trying to absorb and understand what is happening.

As people try to process the reality of the loss, they are also trying to survive emotional pain. It is hard to come to terms with losing an important person in your life and it can take your mind some time to adjust to the new reality. It is normal to think ‘that this isn’t happening’ at first, this is shock and a defence mechanism. There is a lot of information to explore and a lot of painful imagery to process, denial attempts to slow this process down so that people can go through it one step at a time, rather than risking the potential of feeling overwhelmed by emotions.

Anger

As reality sets in, most people will feel frustrated and angry – this is very common for people to experience this. This anger might be towards other people, the person who has died or about life in general. Anger does not require us to be very vulnerable, however it tends to be more socially acceptable than admitting we are scared. It allows people to express emotion with less fear of judgement or rejection. This stage does tend to be the first thing we feel when we start to release emotions and can leave people feeling isolated and perceive as unapproachable.

Bargaining

It is very common when dealing with the loss to feel so desperate that you are willing to try and do almost anything to minimize the pain. Dwelling on what could have been done to prevent the loss will play on the mind and thoughts like ‘If only…’ or ‘What if…’ will be questioned. People realise that there is nothing that can be done to influence change or better the outcome, so the feeling of helplessness can cause
people to react in protect by bargaining. While bargaining people also tend to focus on their personal faults or regrets and may look back at interactions that they had with the person that they have lost to note times where they were disconnected or caused them pain.

Depression

There will come a time where our imaginations calm down and we slowly start to look at the reality of the present situation. Sadness sets in as people begin to understand the loss and how it will effect life. People may find themselves retreating, being less sociable and not reaching out for help and support as the sadness grows. Although this is a very natural stage, dealing with depression after the loss can be extremely isolating. Some signs of depression includes crying, sleeping issues, feeling lonely and loss of appetite.

Acceptance

At this stage people are no longer resisting the reality of the situation and aren’t struggling to make it something different. Sadness and regret can still be present but the emotional survival tactics of denial, bargaining and anger are less likely to be present and plans for moving forward are starting to be put into place.

The 5 Stages of the Grief Cycle