By: Chris Anderson Psy.D.

In 1969 Elisabeth Kubler-Ross published her book, On Death and Dying. She introduced a five-stage model related to the grieving process that is commonly referred to now as the five stages of grief. Let’s look at each.

Stage One: Denial

Upon learning of a loss, most people find themselves in a state of shock or denial. They simply cannot believe what they are hearing. Some are awestruck and confused as to how the loss could have occurred. “I just talked to Aunt Betty yesterday. How can she be gone?” For many, the denial stage also serves as a protective mechanism from feelings of anguish that would simply be overwhelming and devastating. Many people experience a slow waning of denial which may regulate the access and intensity of grief as they come to grips with reality. Most people experience denial from several hours to several days.

Stage Two: Anger

Many people are surprised to learn that anger is a stage of grieving and perhaps more surprised by the intensity of it they may feel. It seems human nature to create a sense of causality, which may lead to the assignment of fault or blame. When feeling adrift with anguish, anger can tether, connect, and provide direction. Many people feel energized and empowered by anger, which can bring unusual comfort in the face of helplessness and powerlessness. Whether we are angry at the perpetrator of the loss, cancer that took them, God, or even the person themselves who died; anger is a natural feeling in the process of grieving a loss.

Stage Three: Bargaining

This is stage is a common occurrence with anticipated losses such as terminal diagnoses like cancer and Alzheimer’s. The person themselves and their loved ones find themselves bargaining with God, fate, or destiny. They make promises and pledges to change or improve in exchange for the return of their loved one’s health and well-being. Sometimes bargaining occurs even after a loss wherein people bargain for a miracle and the return of their loved one. For most, like denial, this is a short-lived stage.

Stage Four: Depression

As reality settles in and washes away denial, most people are struck with profound pain and sadness stemming from the void and loss of their loved one. The depth and duration of people’s anguish are often determined by the attachment and connection they had with that person. For most this is the hardest and most difficult stage as people must endure and process their pain while feeling vulnerable. For many, the passage of time slowly heals wounds and propels them into the next stage.

Stage Five: Acceptance

Many people struggle to imagine how they will ever come to accept the loss of a loved one. They often believe acceptance is synonymous with becoming on board and OK with their loved one being gone, and they simply cannot get there. This is true for most people, but acceptance is often achieved with a shift in perception and goal. The task of acceptance is often achieved by shifting to a place where we can accept reality. We need not like the reality or be OK with it, in order to accept it. As we achieve greater acceptance, anger and depression wane accordingly. For most people, this is not a linear process of going from one stage to the next. Most people cycle back and forth through the stages over time spending less time in the early stages and more time in the latter stages as things dissipate over time.

Maple Grove Psychiatrists

There is no one right way to grieve but there are some things to watch out for and avoid. If you need support and monitoring through the grieving process, feel free to contact IPC so you can schedule an individual consultation with one of our providers so we can help discuss treatment options. Please call us now at 763-416-4167, or request an appointment on our website: WWW.IPC-MN.COM so we can sit down with you and complete a thorough assessment and help you develop a plan of action that will work for you. Life is too short to be unhappy. Find the peace of mind you deserve.

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