What Are The Five Stages of Grief?
The Five Stages of Grief were postulated by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross after interviewing 500 dying patients. It describes, in five separate stages, the model by which people cope with and handle grief, tragedy, and catastrophic loss.
These stages have been accepted as the Five Stages of Grief, although these stages are not meant to be completely linear or chronological stages. Nor does everyone dealing with a catastrophic loss experience the five stages in the same manner. Some stages may be missed, some re-experienced, while some may get stuck in one stage.
Grief is as unique as the person experiencing it.
1. Denial and Isolation. Commonly, when a person is faced with a catastrophic event, they feel denial. Their reaction is one of shock and disbelief: "I'm fine," or "This cannot be happening to me." Denial is a built-in coping mechanism allowing the pain to seep through the numbness in small increments. If all the pain hit at once, it would be debilitating. Those grieving may isolate themselves from social contacts while denying the loss.
2. Anger. The individual experiencing the loss realizes that denial cannot continue. The person becomes outraged, envious, and full of anger. Anger can be healing. While the anger may be directed toward no one at all, it may spill out into the grieving person's relationships with other people. The anger shouldn't escalate to a dangerous level, but a healthy amount is therapeutic. The anger you feel is an indication of the intensity of your love and loss. "Why me?" and "Who can I blame?" are common reactions during this stage of grief.
3. Bargaining. After the anger abates, those who are grieving enter a stage of bargaining with God. This stage is reminiscent of childhood days when children plead with their parents. It's almost as though the bereaved is saying, "Now that I'm no longer angry, can I have a little more time?" Someone in this stage of grief may say things like, "Please just let me see my child get married" or "Please let me have a few more minutes with my loved one."
4. Depression. When the bereaved realizes they cannot deal their way out of this situation, reality sets in. Depression leads to sadness, grief, as the full weight of what they have lost or are in the process of losing sinks in. The bereaved cries and mourns and wonders how they can continue. It may be helpful for those in this stage of grief to talk through their feelings with a counselor or even good friends. This stage, along with the others, will ebb and flow over weeks, months, or possibly years.
5. Acceptance. Acceptance is the most confusing stage of grieving. Though the bereaved accepts that they have experienced a significant loss, they are never truly "over it." People on the outside of the situation will assume the bereaved has moved on. During acceptance, the bereaved learns how to live their "new normal." It's much like learning to walk again but without a limb. It will NEVER be like it was, but life can can be lived again.