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The Five Stages of Grief and Loss

Category: 

Grieving Process

Posted On: Sep 30, 2014

Children Grief

In 1969, the American psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross introduced what would become a very well-known model for how many people deal with loss. In her book On Death and Dying, Kübler-Rosslaid out five stages of grief and loss that could be applied to many situations involving loss, including children dealing with their parents’ divorce, breaking up with a romantic partner, as well one dealing with one’s own terminal illness. Oftentimes, the five stages are considered when someone is dealing with the loss of a loved one. The stages, sometimes referred to by the acronym DABDA, include:

  1. Denial.The first thing that many people cope with in dealing with a loss is to not want to believe the reality of the situation. It is a common defensive response because most people can’t handle the overwhelming emotions of loss or learning about a terminal illness.  By attempting to push away the devastating reality of the situation, one begins to develop a false reality that is better than the situation their current situation. Denial is a completely normal response that protects the person from being overcome with the gravity of the loss.

 

  1. Anger. After being confronted with the reality of the situation for long enough, the shield of denial begins to be torn down. While the person might be willing to admit that the situation is real, they still aren’t quite sure how to deal with it. People going through this stage might show anger towards loved ones, a doctor who was unable to cure the disease, or even the terminally ill person or lost love one. People going through this stage might feel guilty for being irrationally angry, which leads to anger toward themselves, as well.

 

  1. Bargaining. After anger, a need to regain control of the situation may arise. It is in this stage where the grieving person begins bargaining. Even people who don’t consider themselves religious may try to make a deal with a higher power, like promising to become a better person if their loved one is spared.

 

  1. Depression. During the depression stage of the Kübler-Ross model, the grieving person begins to understand the reality of the situation, but hasn’t quite accepted it yet. The futility of fighting against the loss is begins to set in once a grieving person realizes that they do not have control over the situation. Friends and family should pay close attention to those closest to the lost loved one during this period, encouraging counseling if it seems appropriate.

 

  1. Acceptance. People take different paths towards the final stage of grief, and some may never truly accept the loss of a loved one. Reaching this stage isn’t necessarily the end of the grieving process, simply the beginning of the final stage. While it is on the other side of depression, acceptance shouldn’t be confused with feelings of happiness, but simply a relative calm compared to everything that came before it. It is often the case that those who are dying reach this stage much sooner than those who will grieve for their loss afterwards.