No one can say they have not experienced grief in their entire lives. At some point or the other, there will come a time when you will encounter grief. It can either be due to the loss of a job, the death of a loved one, or the ending of a relationship. There are five stages of grieving. These are:
- And finally, acceptance.
Grief is something that is very personal and unique to every individual. No timeline can be defined for grieving. It does not follow a specific schedule. You can either feel withdrawn, angry, or depressed. None of these feelings are all alright or perfect or not acceptable.
In this article, I will be discussing the five above-mentioned stages of grieving. If you want to know more about the stages of grieving, how to recover from any relationship, and how to lead a more positive life, please subscribe to the Guilt Free Mind newsletter. This will allow me to notify you the moment the next blog post goes live.
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Table of Contents
Stages of grieving
As I mentioned before, grief is something that is very unique and personal to every individual. How I experience grief may be very different from how you experience it. No one can say that grief should be experienced within a certain time. In some cases, grief lasts for a few months. In others, it may go on for decades. Everyone understands and processes grief in their own manner. Despite this, there are certain commonalities between the stages of grieving.
Stages of grieving: five or seven?
There is a major confusion going on about the number of stages of grieving that have been classified. In the year 1969, a psychiatrist, Elizabeth Kübler Ross, mentioned in her book that grief could be divided into five different stages. Her theory was later referred to as the Kübler-Ross model. Originally, this theory was devised for those who were terminally ill. However, over time, this theory has spread over and encompassed two other experiences associated with loss as well. Other experts have designated grief as being either a two-stage step or a seven-stage step. Thus, due to the presence of many schools of thought, one cannot say any of these are wrong. They are all correct in their own right. However, in this blog post, I’ll primarily discuss the Kübler Ross model, which describes the five stages of grieving.
Understanding the stages of grieving
Denial: the first one in the stages of grieving
When something bad happens, the first thing our brain tells us is that this cannot happen to us. Whether it is the loss of your pet or the loss of someone who was very close to you, the grief hits us hard. The first thing we feel is that this is not reality. We are stuck in a dream world.
Since the feeling of loss is so overwhelming, the brain usually tries to deny everything at first. Therefore, the person gets a strong feeling that they are stuck in a bad dream. The first instinct of the brain is to deny. This gives it the time to gradually absorb the bad news and allows the brain to start processing. Instead of letting a barrage of emotions flow in, denial puts a damper on it and allows the emotions to slowly seep in.
Denial is employed by almost all of us in a difficult situations. It helps to numb the intensity of the pain that you are feeling. Once you start moving out of the stage of denial, the emotions that you have been working to hide will start to come back. You will be suddenly confused confronted with a high level of sorrow that you were initially denied. This particular stage in the stages of grieving can be very difficult. However, it is also very necessary.
What denial can look like
- Easily distracted
- Keeping busy all the time
- Thinking or saying that everything is fine
What it feels like
- Shutting down
Examples of a person going through denial
In case of a terminal illness diagnosis
This cannot be happening to me. There is something wrong with the test results. I will ask them to conduct another check, and everything will come back to normal.
A loss of a loved one
How can you say she is gone? She is not. She will come and sit next to me any moment now.
Loss of a job
There has been some mistake on the part of the company. They will call me back either today or tomorrow and tell me that they need me and it was all in mistake.
Divorce or break up
They are upset. This will all be over tomorrow. Everything will get back to normal.
Anger : the second one in the stages of grieving
Denial is the coping mechanism, while anger is the masking effect. Anger works to hide what the person truly feels, which is a barrage of emotions and pain. The anger may be redirected to its others, like people who are in close proximity, the ex-boss, the person who has passed away, or the ex.
In some cases, the anger me also be directed towards inanimate objects like the door, phone, laptop, etc. Logically, you do understand that there is no point in blaming others or the situation. However, the feelings are so intense that the logic portion of the brain is not heard of.
Anger may also be masked by feelings of resentment and bitterness. It may not appear as a clear rage or fury. It is also not necessary that everyone who goes through brief will experience this stage. Some people may pass through this stage very quickly. Others may stay on the stage for a longer period. However, eventually, the anger starts to subside. When it does, people start to think about what is going on and allow themselves to feel the emotions that they had been pushing away or burying under the anger for all this while.
What anger may look like
- constantly getting into arguments
- Getting into physical fights
- Being passive aggressive
- Being aggressive
- Increase in the uptake of drug use or alcohol
What anger actually feels like
- Feeling out of control
Example of the anger stage
In case of divorce or break up.
He decided to leave. He will regret his decision for the rest of his life.
Loss of a job
It is not my fault. I have horrible bosses. This company is moving towards its doom.
Loved one’s demise
She should have been responsible and cared for herself . She should have taken her medication on time. Maybe she would still be alive.
Diagnosis of a terminal illness
Why did this happen to me, God? What did I do to deserve this?
Bargaining: the third in the stages of grieving
The next step in the stages of grieving is why we need it. One feeling that we very commonly experience when in grief is the feeling of helplessness and hopelessness. When these emotions start to take over the brain, people try to find different ways by which they can gain back control. During the bargaining stage, people think more in terms of ‘if only’ and ‘what if’ statements.
If the person has a religious inclination, now would be the time they would turn to God. They would promise God or try to make a deal with God to provide them with healing powers to deal with the pain. Bargaining is primarily used to deal with the emotions that come in when the barriers are finally lifted. With bargaining, the barrage can be slowed down, not stopped. It helps to postpone the feelings of confusion, sadness, and hurt that the person might be experiencing.
What bargaining looks like
- Overthinking and worrying
- Comparing oneself to everyone else
- Being judgmental towards others or themselves
- ruminating on the past or the future
- Comparing themselves to others
- Predicting about the future and assuming the worst that could happen
- Saying or thinking that if only I should have
What bargaining feels like
- For your
Examples of bargaining stages
In case of a breakup or divorce
If only I had more time to spend with my spouse, he or she would not have taken the divorce.
If only I did not talk back to my boss, if only I had completed the work on time, if only I worked during the weekends, they would not have fired me from the job. They would have understood my worthiness.
Death of a closed one
If only I had noticed the symptoms of the disease before, or if only I had called Her or him that night, this would not have happened.
Diagnosis of a terminal illness
If only I had noticed the symptom before, there is a chance that the disease could have been prevented from escalating to this level.
Depression: the fourth in the stages of grieving
Depression is the silent stage in the stages of grieving. By this time, the emotions have become silent, and the person experiences more numbness. During the early stages, the person runs through a variety of emotions. The sufferers try to get ahead of the emotions or try not to feel them at all. However, by the time the person passes through the bargaining stage, the emotions have slowly crept in. By this time, the person has probably worked through most of the emotions. Now is the time the person starts to either embrace the emotions or isolate themselves completely.
This does not mean that depression can be very easily defined. Depression is hard to define because it contains a mix of anger, panic episodes, numbness, etc. Sometimes depression can also present as anger issues.
This is the one stage where sometimes people get stuck in for years. It is impossible to avoid. However, staying stuck is also not an option. If you feel that you are stuck at this stage of grieving and need help, the best option would be to approach a mental health expert. They can help you during this period of loss.
What depression looks like
- Changes in appetite and sleep habits
- Lack of motivation
- Increased substance abuse
- Production and socialism
- Appetite and sleep changes
What depression feels like
- Constantly overwhelmed
Example of depression
In case of divorce or break up
What is the point of living? I will either way, die alone.
Loss of job
It doesn’t make sense to look for a new job. I will get fired eventually.
Loss of a loved one
How am I going to continue living without him/her? He/she made life worth living.
Terminal illness diagnosis
Is this the way my life is to end?
Acceptance: the fifth in the stages of grieving
Just because it is named acceptance for my does not mean that the person suddenly becomes happy or starts to feel normal again. Acceptance just means that the person has accepted that there has been a loss, and they have to live with it for the rest of their life. Suddenly, when the realization dawns, the person may start to feel very different from how they felt when they were stuck in the stage of depression. It is completely alright. Acceptance causes a major change in one’s life and it can make you think about many things in a different manner.
One way of looking at acceptance is that a person will have more normal days than bad days. This does not mean that the person has forgotten the loss or has completely moved on from the loss. This just means that the person finds it easy to get back into the normal functioning routine.
What acceptance looks like
- coping, adapting, responding skillfully
- Engaging with reality as it is
- Being present in the moment
- Mindful behavior
- Saying this is how it’s going to be now
- Being vulnerable and tolerates emotions well
- Honest communication, nondefensive and assertive
What acceptance feels like
- Good enough
Example of acceptance
In case of breakup or divorce
I think maybe he/she was not the right person for me.
Loss of a job
Maybe what happened, happened for the best. Now I can apply to better companies and get way better prospects.
Death of a loved one
I should count my blessings that I had so many wonderful years with that person. Now that he is gone, I will live with the memories.
Diagnosis of terminal illness
At least I have the opportunity to put everything in order and tie loose ends. I can meet my family and my loved ones. At least I won’t be gone suddenly.
The seven stages of grieving
As I mentioned before, there have been other theories according to which grieving actually involves seven stages. Here is a brief example of those seven stages.
Denial and shock
This is the first stage in the stages of grieving. During this time, the person is stuck in a mode of disbelief and jumbled feelings. Most of the time, the person will think that this is not the reality and the person whom they are missing or the job that they don’t have is going to come back to them very soon.
Guilt and pain
During this stage, one of the people in her starts to feel very angry or feels that whatever happened, happened because of their own fault. They most commonly will feel that they do not deserve to be in this condition. What has been done to them is absolutely wrong. Or they may feel, “what if I did this? I could have prevented the situation from occurring,” etc.
At this stage, the person feels that their life is doomed. Things will never get better, and they will just have a solitary existence. They start to feel that they are not fit to be in a relationship or to love someone. Those who love them die etc.
During this time, the person starts to see hope again. They feel that maybe someday the future might hold something good for them. Maybe one day, they will be able to be in a relationship, fall in love with someone else or be able to move forward from the loss that they have incurred in their life.
Reconstruction and working through
This is the stage where the person goes back and evaluates what went wrong or might have gone wrong in the first place. They try to figure out their mistakes and learn from them so that those mistakes are not repeated in the future.
Acceptance and hope
When the person reaches this stage, they accept that they’ve lost someone/something in their life. They also accept that they need to keep moving forward, and maybe one day, the future will hold something better for them.
Want to know more?
If you want more information on the stages of grieving and other factors that contribute to grief, please subscribe to Guilt Free Mind. Your subscription will allow me to notify you the moment the next blog post releases. If you like watching videos, subscribe to the YouTube channel of Guilt Free Mind. Do not forget to ring the notification bell. If you want to have your queries addressed, you can meet me live on Twitch. I do coworking streams on Twitch every day from 11 am to 7 pm Indian standard time. I also host mental health sessions on Tuesdays and Fridays from 4:30 to 6:30 pm.
Grief is a part of everyone’s life. It is an inescapable reality. The only difference between two persons suffering from the same grief is how they process each. In case of grief, no one can put a timeline. You have to allow the stages to go on at their own pace. You cannot fast-forward them. However, if it feels that you have been stuck in a stage for too long and are enabled to move on despite wanting to, you should seek out help from a psychologist. They can guide you through the grieving process and help you reach the acceptance stage quicker.
Have you suffered through the stages of grieving? How has your experience been? Which stage do you think took the longest for you to get out of? Please mention your experiences in the comment section below. Your experiences may encourage someone else to seek the help that they need and boost their mental health.
See you in my next blog post
Grief is a very individualistic experience. What might be the hardest stage for someone may not be the hardest stage for another individual. Therefore, the toughest stages of grieving would depend on the person who is going through the grief.
For everyone, grief is different. There is no time frame that can be defined. Every stage is different. Every timeline for every stage is also different. You may feel like you are stuck in a particular stage of grief for months or even years.