We’ve all heard of grief, we’ve all experienced it to some extent in our lives. However, were you aware that grieving not only applies to mourning for the ones who died, but also to, let’s say, we can grieve a friend who betrayed us or a partner that cheated on us. We can go through stages of grief when we have been informed that we’re dying from a terminal illness or even when we’ve lost a job. Anything that changes our life in a specific way can be placed into stages of grieving.

No matter the reason for our grief, we will most probably all experience it at one point in our lives.

How did the stages of grief come about?

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, who was a psychiatrist and a near-death studies pioneer, “ found that terminally ill patients often experienced five stages as they coped with impending death.” Elisabeth created the five stages of grief model when she worked with these terminally ill individuals and from there it has been adjusted to other situations.

There are also other stages of grief models that contain seven stages and even two, but in this article, we will be exploring the original five stages.

The five stages of grief

1. Denial

When faced with the loss of a loved one, it can be a difficult thing to process so we tend to shift our thinking towards that person. In some sense when we are in denial we pretend that the passing of that person didn’t happen.

2. Anger

It’s normal to feel some sense of anger for the person who has died. We’re not sure how to deal with the situation so we may lash out in anger, making us seem unapproachable at times.

3. Bargaining

This is usually the stage where you request something in return for you doing something. Like you may say, “God if you save my sister, I promise I’ll never do anything bad as long as I live.”

Here you feel desperate and feel like everything is out of control and so you desperately try to plea for anyone to help you. When bargaining, it is common to recall things that you may have encountered with the person, like when you said something you didn’t mean, and how you wish you could go back in time to change that moment.

According to an article by Kimberly Holland, “In the bargaining stage of grief, you may find yourself creating a lot of “what if” and “if only” statements.”

4. Depression

When we start to realise the gravity of the situation, that that person is no longer around, or that that person betrayed you in that way, then we go into a state of depression.

When faced with depression we tend to isolate and spend more time with ourselves, trying to think about life without that person.

5. Acceptance

When we finally accept that the person is no longer around, we are able to deal with the loss and pain of the person. We may still feel sad, but those feelings of denial and anger fade away. Here we are finally realising the reality.

The five stages of grief are not set in stone and it’s very normal to move from denial to anger and then go back to denial.

According to Nigel Holt and co-authors, of Psychology: The Science of Mind and Behaviour, “Even among terminally ill patients, some move back and forth between stages, do not experience all the stages…”

It’s important to realise that we all grieve differently and that there is no set time for people who grieve. Some people may take years, some may take months or weeks; it all depends on the individual.

We all experience grief at some point in our lives, and like Elizabeth Gilbert says, “It’s an honour to be in grief. It’s an honor to feel that much, to have loved that much.”


Read more on depression here.

Tell us: Have you or someone you know, ever experienced the five stages of grief?