Home > Emotional Issues > The Stages of Grief

The Stages of Grief

By: Beth Morrisey MLIS - Updated: 23 May 2017 | comments*Discuss
Grief kubler-ross Model kubler-ross

It is now commonly accepted that grief involves a five stage cycle of denial anger, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance. Often this five stage cycle is referred to as the Kubler-Ross cycle or the Kubler-Ross model, after Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, the doctor who investigated this cycle in people grieving over the loss of a loved one. This cycle can be experienced either by those who have suffered a loss, or those who have been informed that they themselves are terminal and may die soon.


Denial, the first stage of grief, occurs when an individual refuses to accept that their loss, or the news of their impending loss, is true. At this time they often simply ignore all evidence to the contrary and continue on as if a loved one will be coming home soon or they will not be facing their own death. Denying the truth may be a conscious or unconscious choice, and may last for varying degrees of time. However, particularly when presented with the body and burial or cremation, individuals often have no choice but to pass into the next stage: anger.


It is very easy for individuals who have suffered a loss or been informed of their own terminal illness to become overwhelmingly angry. They may be angry at their doctors, angry at the wider medical community, angry at themselves, angry at other relatives or friends, angry at the deceased or even angry with their religious deity for allowing this situation to occur. This anger is rarely rational, but it can be overwhelming and consuming. Often, however, this anger burns itself out eventually and this emotion may be replaced with the next stage: bargaining



Particularly for individuals who have been diagnosed with a life threatening illness, a period of bargaining will likely occur in which the individual attempts to wheedle a deal with their religious deity. They may attempt such bargains as “If you take away the pain, then I will…” or “If you let me live, then I will…” Individuals watching a loved one suffer may also attempt such bargains, such as “If you just let my sister live, I will…” Sometimes this bargaining may also occur irrationally after a death, in which an individual begs for their loved one to be returned to life in exchange for whatever price such a bargain would demand. When this bargaining does not work, the result is often the next stage of grief: depression.


When an individual is facing death, the depression that is experienced often stems from the first steps in accepting their own mortality. At this time the individual may feel sad, anxious, scared and even a certain amount of regret or guilt. In individuals who have lost a loved one, depression may include the same emotions as they will just be beginning to realise that their situation is irrevocable and they really must continue to live without the presence of the deceased in their lives. These first hints at acceptance then lead into the last stage of grief: acceptance.


Individuals approaching their own deaths may come to accept this fact long before their relatives and friends do so. This acceptance may come many months or even years before their death will occur, and it will often prompt the individual to examine their current way of life and decide what is truly important to them. These decisions sometimes influence the individual to change their way of living, such as moving to an area that they have always wanted to live, take a trip that they have always wanted to take, change careers to a sector in which they have always been interested, or stop working all together. Individuals who have recently lost a loved one will likely come to the acceptance stage after they have become comfortable with the fact that the deceased will not be returning to them. This may also spark life changes, though major decisions such as to move houses, change careers or have a baby should be put off for at least a year until the individual is certain that this is rationally the best decision.

Grief can be overwhelming, and in general the Kubler-Ross model of the five stages of grief is experienced by most of the bereaved and those who have been advised of their own impending death. However, the way each stage is experienced is often unique to the individual. If at any time grief becomes overwhelming, the individual suffering should consult a medical or mental health professional for further support, information and advice.

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My dad just passed away 3 week ago, I was with him when he died. Everyone asks how I feel and I feel nothing! I thought that sorting funeral out was to blame for the feeling and that it would hit me at his funeral which was yesterday bt again no floodgates just a few stray tears. I was close to my dad I was his little girl... i have read ths stages of grief because i feel not normal for not breaking down. I felt angry (not to point of rage) and had tears then when we was told it was inoperable as he had just retired bt none of the other stages... I haven't had a good night sleep in months the last 3 have been worse. I know he has gone and I wondered because I was with him when he passed could that of helped my acceptance of his death and will I be able to sleep soon? I don't feel I need to speak to zone bt am worried that I haven't been as upset as I thought I should be..
Cat - 23-May-17 @ 9:17 PM
a month ago i lost my son due to Subphrenic abscess. i cry everyday i blame myself for not seeing things when there was still time for treatment.i miss him so much he was only 9 years old
missooh - 10-May-17 @ 11:47 AM
complete my assignment for me blease. Unit 25- Coping with Change in Health and Social Care Context P3: Explain the role of one health and social care professional in supporting individuals who are experiencing transition and change M2: Discuss how three types of support may be used by professionals who work with individuals experiencing transition and change D1: Analyse the benefits to the individual who is experiencing transition and change of one of the chosen types of support Case Study A teenage girl called Lily lost her father 8 months ago on the 14th October. She’s devastated and most of the times she is looking for her father as there many things that remind her of her father. She cries a lot when she remembers about him. They shared many good memories together and she was very close to her father. Her father was the one who held everything together and she would do anything to just hear his voice again. Her mother is struggling to keep everything together and is unable to look after herself as well Lily.
johnny - 8-Mar-17 @ 2:39 PM
Both my parents died within 5 weeks of each other in 2002. Now my grief is for myself, for the love I never had from them. It is just as hard as the grief for them, perhaps harder because what I am grieving seems so intangible .
John 7 - 14-Oct-15 @ 7:12 PM
Mammyj- Your Question:
I lost my mam 5 months ago to ovarian cancer, I watched cancer eat her away, it has robbed me of my best friend. I'm so angry, I cry everyday, physically hurt. I'm starting councelling tomorrow and am worried about breaking down before I even get in the room!

Our Response:
Counselling should help you handle your grief...don't be worried about a breaking down, they will have experienced all kinds of behaviour. Good Luck.
FacingBereavement - 2-Sep-15 @ 10:13 AM
I lost my mam 5 months ago to ovarian cancer, I watched cancer eat her away, it has robbed me of my best friend. I'm so angry, I cry everyday,physically hurt. I'm starting councelling tomorrow and am worried about breaking down before I even get in the room!
Mammyj - 1-Sep-15 @ 5:19 PM
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