“Grief is the conflicting feelings caused by the end of or change in a familiar pattern of behavior; the normal and natural reaction to any change that occurs in life”
– Grief Recovery Institute
In short, this quote summarizes grief as an unavoidable part of life that everyone will experience and process differently, especially after the death of a loved one. The grief process can be more manageable simply by accepting one’s own mortality.
The following 5 stages of grief will be different for everyone. At some point, a person may feel all emotions at once or no emotion at all. The order in which emotions occur and the frequency of each emotion will vary person to person.
The Five Stages of Grief
For some, denial is the first stage of loss. It is used as a defense mechanism to help cope with the immediate shock of a situation.
Pain from a loss can take different forms – often redirected and expressed as anger. Questions such as “Why me?” and “What did I do to deserve this?” may arise during this stage.
Bargaining is said to be a method of holding onto hope during times of great distress. You are willing to give everything to return to normalcy, asking “what if” questions and making “if only” statements.
In situations of loss, depression is not a warning of depreciating mental health, but rather a very natural and common response to grief. Intense sadness may ensue during this stage due to the realization of your current situation of loss.
Accepting your situation does not mean you have to be okay with what happened. Acceptance is more about acknowledging the situation at hand and adjusting to your life after loss.
The Other Stages
Although these five stages have served as numerous mental health professionals’ framework for learning and understanding the process of grief, some professionals have added stages to this framework – including the woman who made the original five-stage process herself, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. Kübler-Ross has taken the five main stages and expanded them to seven overlapping stages: shock, denial, anger and frustration, depression, testing, decision, and integration.
At the end of the day, there is no right or wrong way to grieve the loss of a loved one. If you need help or want to speak with someone about your grief, we are happy to make a recommendation.
There is great potential for people to live a fuller and more content life after they accept their own mortality. Further, talking about death and your wishes regarding end of life could help loved ones begin to cope with the idea of loss. Below are two resources to help get the conversation started around death.