Most people have heard of the stages of grief. The term “5 stages of grief” comes from a 1969 book known as “On Death And Dying”, which introduced to the world the said topic. The book was authored by a ground breaking psychiatrist known as Elisabeth Kubler-Ross who ignited the conversation about death in a time when the subject was largely taboo.
Though the stages were originally intended to reflect the experiences of those dying, Kubler Ross later extended their definition to encompass the experiences of anyone who has suffered a loss or a tragedy.
The five stages are:
- Denial: Denial is something you experience when you first hear the news of a sudden loss, something which you had not expected and imagined. You are shocked and stunned. You are not able to digest the fact that this can happen to you. Hence you deny the fact that it has ever happened. You try to absorb the information, but your mind does not allow it.
- Anger: This is what you can go through once you come to terms with the loss. The deep sense of sorrow and resentment may find its way in the form of anger directed toward others, such as the one you have lost or people around you, or even towards God. Not everyone goes through this stage. Some people can control their anger more than others. Anger can make you unapproachable to others, and you may feel ok with that for some days.
- Bargaining: At this stage, it means that you would attempt to ask the higher powers, e.g. God, to bring back what you have lost in exchange for something. You can a false belief that you can mend things through negotiation. It is like giving false hope to yourself and postponing the feeling of hopelessness. You are most vulnerable and helpless during this stage.
- Depression: The earlier stages of denial, anger and bargaining are full of activity in your brain. As soon as you realize that you cannot change things, you become quiet. You begin to isolate yourself from people around you and go into a shell. You feel alone and empty even when you are surrounded by your family and friends. Nothing seems to make you feel better.
- Acceptance: Acceptance is when you come to terms with reality. You accept that this can happen with everyone and you need to move on in life. You realize that there is nothing you can do to retrieve what you have lost. However, you feel that life still has something to offer to you.
The five stages of grief are not linear; they can occur in any order, and possibly more than once. While the Kubler-Ross model is the most widely recognized, there are many variations, typically ranging from three to seven stages. They also may have slightly different titles – “guilt” instead of “bargaining”. The goal of these models is to help you accept that though your feelings and reactions can be scary or overwhelming, they are a normal part of grieving, and allowing yourself to experience them will ultimately aid you in learning.