Understanding the stages of grief: A comprehensive guide

Grief is a natural reaction to loss. People often talk about the stages of grief, and while grief does not always follow such a clear pattern, understanding the potential stages can help you navigate your own experiences.
By illume Editorial Team
Last updated: May 29, 2023
10 Minute Read
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Understanding the Stages of Grief: A Comprehensive Guide

This article will teach you about the various stages of grief, how they impact you, and how to cope with these emotions.

The Stages of Grief: How they affect you?

Understanding Grief and Emotions

Grief is a personal and distinct experience for each person. Various variables, such as the nature of the loss, personal beliefs, and cultural background, can all impact the process. It is critical to remember that there is no right or wrong way to mourn and that everyone’s path is unique.

Are there stages of grief?

There are various grief models, one of which is Kübler-Ross’s five stages model. For some people, this can be a helpful way of thinking about grief, especially as there is a sense of progression of moving through the stages and reaching a point of healing.

However, it’s important to remember that this is just one model of grief – experiencing steps out of order (or not at all) is completely normal.

At times you may share all the feelings described by the five stages – denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance – and at other times, you may need to intentionally give yourself a break from grief, focusing instead on activities that comfort and soothe you.

Who is Elisabeth Kübler-Ross?

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross was a Swiss-American psychiatrist who contributed significantly to our knowledge of grief and loss.

“On Death and Dying,” her seminal book published in 1969, introduced the widely recognised 5-stage model of grief, also known as the Kübler-Ross model.

The model was originally developed to address the emotional stages of critically ill patients, but it was later expanded to address other types of loss.

Are there five or seven phases of grief?

There are two common models of grief, one with five stages and the other with seven. The 5-stage model is founded on Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s work, whereas the 7-stage model is an extension of her original theory.

The initial five phases are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. The 7-stage model of grief adds two new phases to Kübler-Ross’ initial theory: pain and guilt, and reconstruction and working through.

The 5 Stages of Grief

Stage 1: Shock and Denial

You may feel numb at this point and find it difficult to comprehend the reality of the loss. This disbelief can act as a protective shield, shielding you from the intensity of your feelings.

Refusing to speak about the loss or acting as if nothing has happened are examples of the denial stage.

Stage 2: Anger

As the shock wears off, you may become irritated with yourself, others, or the circumstance. This rage can be used to regain control or to express your anguish.

Blaming others for the loss or feeling resentful towards life for being unfair are examples of the rage stage.

Stage 3: Bargaining

During the bargaining period, you may attempt to make deals with a higher power or yourself to reverse or mitigate the loss. This stage is frequently associated with guilt and “what if” situations.

Promises to be a better person if the loss could be reversed are examples of the bargaining stage, as is obsessing over ways you could have avoided the circumstance.

Stage 4: Depression

You may feel profound sadness and despair as the truth of the loss sinks in. Feelings of loneliness, hopelessness, and overwhelm are common during this period.

Withdrawing from social activities, losing interest in things you once liked, and struggling to find meaning in life are all symptoms of the depression stage.

Stage 5: Acceptance

In the acceptance stage, you begin to accept the loss and look for a means to move forward. Acceptance does not imply that you are no longer grieving but rather learning to live with the reality of the circumstance.

Finding new ways to honour the deceased’s memory, seeking support from loved ones, and discovering unique views on life are all examples of the acceptance stage.

The 7 Stages of Grief Theory

The 7-stage model of grief adds two new phases to Kübler-Ross’ initial theory: pain and guilt, and reconstruction and working through.

Stage 6: Guilt and Pain

This period is characterised by intense emotional pain and guilt over actions taken or not taken before the loss. Healing is critical to recognise and process these emotions.

Stage 7: Reconstruction and Recovery

You begin to rebuild your life and work through your grief during this period by finding new routines, goals, and meaning.

Conclusion

Grief is a difficult and intensely individual process. Many people find the stages of grief model helpful as it provides some structure and insight into this painful and disorientating time.

However, it’s important to remember that everyone’s journey is unique. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. You may sometimes experience all of the feelings described by the stages of grief, sometimes some more than others, and at other times none at all.

It’s normal to take a break from your grief from time to time – and these moments of normality often give us hope for the future.

By engaging with the various stages of grief when you have the strength and letting yourself rest when you need to, you create the ideal environment to grow through grief.

Find Grief Support with Grief Works by Illume

Getting support when grieving is essential, but it can be challenging.

The Grief Works app offers 24/7 support in the palm of your hand. The 28-session therapeutic course will help you process your grief at your own pace, and you’ll gain access to 30+ interactive tools to manage your emotions when you need them.

Connect with a community that cares for you, attend live monthly group sessions with Julia herself and have the option to text-chat to a counsellor when needed.

Reach out for support now to take the first step towards soothing your pain, building your strength and healing from grief.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Are there five phases of grief or seven?

Two widely used models of grief exist, one with five phases and the other with seven. Both versions of the grieving process are well-known and frequently used.

What is the most challenging step of grieving?

Each person’s experience of the most difficult period of grief is unique and subjective. Some people might struggle with acceptance, while others might find the early shock and denial the most difficult.

How long do the various grieving stages last?

Each person’s experience of grief is unique, so there is no set time frame for passing through each step. It’s also common to re-experience the feelings described by the 5 stages a long time – even years – after the initial loss.

Can you go through the phases of grief in any order?

Yes, you can go through the stages of grief in any sequence and go back through them or repeat them as you deal with your loss. Some people will skip certain stages entirely.

How can I support someone who is going through the grieving process?

Without passing judgment, extend a listening ear, understanding, and support. The grieving process can be unpredictable and take time, so be gentle and understanding. Encourage them to seek expert assistance if necessary, and ensure they know you care by checking in on them when you can.

What services are offered to those who are grieving?

Numerous tools and resources are accessible, such as support groups, bereavement counselling, books, and online tools like Julia Samuel’s Grief Works app. These tools can provide direction and support people through the grieving process.