7 Stages of Grieving

Understanding the 7 Stages of Grieving

Grief touches us all. It’s something we’ll likely face sooner or later, whether the reasons are the loss of a loved one, a job, the end of a relationship, or any significant life shift.

Grief is personal and doesn’t neatly follow a straight line. It doesn’t stick to schedules or timelines. You might find yourself crying, getting angry, withdrawing, or feeling an emptiness inside – and that’s okay. These reactions are not unusual or wrong.

To help make sense of these emotions, many have found comfort in understanding the seven stages of grief. This guide is like a roadmap, allowing you to recognize, understand, accept, and find renewal in the face of grief’s challenges. Together, let’s make this journey a little simpler.

How Many Stages of Grief Are There?

Psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross introduced the concept of the stages of grief in her book “On Death and Dying.”  1969. Initially, Kübler-Ross identified five stages of grief:

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance

These stages were proposed based on her observations of individuals facing terminal illness. Over time, the model has been widely accepted and applied to various types of loss, not just death.

So, we now commonly refer to seven stages to better include the various phases of grief.

Read more: Embracing Change with the Essence of Emotional Agility.

What Are The 7 Stages of Grieving?

The seven stages of grief, built upon the original five-stage approach, help us understand the complex journey of coping with loss. It’s important to note that you might only go through some of the seven stages or experience them in a different sequence. These stages include:

  1. shock and disbelief
  2. denial
  3. guilt
  4. anger and bargaining
  5. depression, loneliness, and reflection
  6. reconstruction (or ‘working through’)
  7. acceptance

Now, let’s dive into each stage:

1 – Shock and disbelief

When you experience a loss, you first feel shock and disbelief. It’s like a protective mechanism, giving you some space to handle the significant loss.

Some may not immediately feel the expected emotions after a family death, and others might anticipate visible distress.

For example, you don’t show your emotions right away, and it’s totally fine.

Just remember, everyone goes through different stages of grief, and it’s totally okay if you feel a bit numb or switch between strong emotions.

Read more: Practicing Self-Compassion Exercises on the Path to Self-Love.

2 – Denial

Losing someone you love can make it hard to believe they’re really gone. Your brain might use denial as a way to cope and handle the pain bit by bit.

As you start to accept the loss denial of leases, you begin to feel a mix of emotions. During this time, you may get hurt when you’re reminded of your loved one, feel emotionally distant from others, or hide your loss.

It’s common to experience forgetfulness, distraction, procrastination, or just keep yourself busy to avoid feeling too much.

Denial can influence how you act, and it’s okay to go through a bunch of different emotions after losing someone.

Read more: Childhood Trauma Test

3 – Guilt

Feeling guilty is a pretty common reaction when someone you love passes away. Many people wonder if there was something else we could have done to stop the loss.

About 7% of people experience “complicated grief,” where guilt becomes a big focus. In this type of grief, you tend to keep dwelling on the details of the death instead of thinking about what might have been done differently.

Someone with complicated grief also finds it challenging to accept that the person is really gone. They often cling to photos or mementos to feel their presence.

Read more: Overcoming Plateaus When Feeling Stuck in Therapy.

4 – Anger and Bargaining

After the ceremonies and funerals, when the support from family and friends has left, you might find yourself becoming more noticeable in a stage where anger and bargaining.

You could be angry at doctors, the person who passed away, or others, and this anger might bring guilt but also offer a needed emotional release.

Bargaining involves mental negotiations, like wishing you can somehow undo the loss. It’s usual to direct your anger towards the person who’s gone or others involved.

Feeling guilty, ashamed, or blaming yourself is likely part of the bargaining stage, which often comes with “what if” questions and a feeling of helplessness.

Instead of dwelling on regrets, you can focus on positive memories and do positive activities, such as writing a letter to your loved one as a way to heal.

Read more: Am I Neurotic?

5 – Depression, loneliness, and reflection

Once you’ve accepted the loss, it might be the time to enter the depression stage of grief, feeling really sad and lonely.

Grief-related depression may lead to feelings of hopelessness, a lack of interest in things you used to enjoy, pulling away from friends and family, and neglecting self-care.

Seeking help from a grief counselor during this time can be helpful.

Depression may be a mental illness with symptoms including:

  • Interminable sadness
  • Anxiety or agitation
  • Overwhelming guilt
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Constant thoughts about death
  • Lack of energy
  • Feeling worthless
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Body aches and pains

Read more: Techniques for Stress and Anxiety Relief.

6 – Reconstruction (or ‘working through’)

The sixth stage of grief is a more significant step when you start to rebuild your life after loss. This reconstruction stage may involve finding a new job, hobby, or new friends.

While you may still feel up and down, you are creating a new life without your deceased loved one and living a ‘new normal.’

The pain may feel raw and painful, but you understand that you cannot change the situation. Even if you may not be fully ready to accept death, you know that life must go on.

As you move forward, you will explore better ways to manage your feelings. For instance, consider joining a support group, trying journaling, or something new.

In this stage, you start acknowledging your new reality and discovering practical ways to cope.

Read more: A Guide on How To Heal From A Broken Heart.

7 – Acceptance

The last stage of this model is acceptance. After going through the dark parts of grieving, you accept that your loved one is no longer here, and you need to move forward no matter what happens next.

In this phase, you might start finding joy again, smiling when you think of your loved one, and getting engaged in new activities or organizing their belongings.

However, acceptance doesn’t mean you’re really fine with the loss; it’s about acknowledging your current reality.

Grieving is a long process, but with acceptance, you learn how to live without your loved one physically present.

While you’ll still have good and bad days, over time, you’ll gradually feel more at ease in your everyday life and better able to deal with unexpected emotions.

Read more: How to Self-Discovery to improve mood.

How To Support Someone Who Is Grieving

Supporting someone who is grieving requires a thoughtful and compassionate approach. Here are some ways to provide assistance:

Offering a Listening Ear:

  • Let the grieving person know that you are there for them, ready to listen whenever they feel the need to talk or share their emotions. Sometimes, they might not want advice; they just need someone who is willing to listen.

Finding Practical Ways to Help:

  • Instead of vague offers like “Let me know if I can do anything,” take the initiative to offer specific assistance. You can suggest tasks such as preparing meals, running errands, or helping with childcare. By providing concrete support, you lessen the burden on the grieving individual.

Assuring the Validity of Their Feelings:

  • Remind them that grief is a unique and individual experience. Validate their emotions and reassure them there is no right or wrong way to grieve. Understand that the sadness may persist for a long time, and some days will be more challenging than others.

Respecting Their Pace:

  • Grieving is a personal journey with no set timetable. Be patient and respect the grieving person’s pace. Avoid pushing them to “move on” or “get over it.” Everyone copes differently, and healing takes time.

Final Thought

Knowing the stages of grief could be useful, and it can show you what you’re going through and why. If you’re at a loss right now, the key thing is you have to be patient, treat yourself with kindness, find inner peace, and give yourself the time you need to accept your new reality. If you feel like you’re having a more challenging time than usual, try other treatment methods. Get it here for free.