5 Stages of Grief and Loss

Grief is common after a death of a loved one, relationship break-up, loss of a job, or withdrawal from substances. Grieving is an essential and universal process that helps us process our emotions and accept life changes. When faced with a loss, people tend to go through common stages. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross identified five stages of grief in her book titled On Death and Dying. The stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Individuals work through these stages at various lengths of time and sometimes go through the stages in a different order.  Sometimes, people are not able to process their grief and remain “stuck” at stage, such as anger. Although each person experiences grief uniquely, the five stages offer a way in which to examine our emotions and normalize grief related feelings.

Denial: When faced with a loss, it is normal to rationalize and deny reality. Denial is considered a defense mechanism that allows us to cope with the harsh reality of our loss. However, acceptance of the loss is still not experienced and the emotional pain is kept at bay.

Anger: As reality sets in, the emotional pain of the loss sets in, often triggering feelings of frustration and anger. We may resort to blaming those we feel responsible for our loss. This can lead to secondary reactions, such as guilt. Overall, this stage is unsettling and emotionally distressing.

Bargaining: During this stage, we will attempt to compromise or negotiate in order to avoid the reality of the situation. This can happen before or after the loss. For example, we may make a promise to God to change our ways in an effort to avoid the loss, or we may feel guilty about our past actions, lamenting “if only I did this…”

Depression: Eventually, the sadness, emptiness and helplessness resulting from our loss arises. We may become sullen and socially isolate ourselves from others. During this time, it is important to recognize your feelings and seek support.

Acceptance: In this final stage, individuals embrace the reality of their situation and may feel an inner sense of peace.

Grief and loss are normal life experiences that everyone encounters at various times in their life. Some individuals are able to navigate through grieving process with relative ease. However, others may need professional guidance to therapeutically navigate through the stages of grieving. At Evolutions Behavioral Health, we offer grief and loss counseling to assist in the grieving process.

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