Sadly, grief is something that many of us will go through at some stage in our lives. Whilst everyone grieves differently, and we should respect how they choose to do so, there are 6 stages to the grieving process.
The following stages have been identified by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, a Swiss Psychiatrist:
Stage 1 – Shock
As with any loss, the first reaction will always be shock. The grieving process can refer to death, divorce or any significant loss in someone’s life. This feeling of disbelief is actually a mechanism to protect us from feeling overwhelmed. Obviously depending on the type of loss, this feeling can be very short (as in a few days), or longer (for a few weeks).
Stage 2 – Denial
This stage is actually another defence mechanism to ensure that daily life continues as it did before the loss. Whilst the individual denies the loss and acts as though nothing has happened, it can allow some plans to be made and affairs to be organised. However, whilst denial is a natural stage, and varies in length depending on the loss, if it persists for too long it can become problematic.
Stage 3 – Anger
As the individual begins to acknowledge the loss, anger becomes a central part of it. This can be directed to the individual themselves, towards what they have lost or towards others. This anger and emotion has been built up over time and often erupts in response to the loss. The individual has no control over when the emotions are released and sometimes people are caught up in the firing line.
Stage 4 – Bargaining
Individuals often feel lost following any significant loss and as part of the desperation will attempt to bargain with themselves or even God. It is this final stage of denial that the individual attempts to hold on and reclaim what they have lost
Stage 5 – Depression
Once the individual begins to recognise that their bargaining has no effect on the reality and that nothing can prevent the loss, a period of depression sets in. This is through the realisation that they have no control over the circumstances but also through feeling isolated and alone. Often those who have experienced loss feel as though nobody understands what they are going through so they turn friends and family away when they try to help.
Stage 6 – Acceptance
Once the reality of the loss sets in, individuals begin to accept what has happened. This stage enables plans to be made to understand what is going to happen, for example a funeral, or what has happened, for example any medical explanation for a death or the reason for a divorce.
Good to Know:
Six stages of grieving may exist and it is believed all six must be experienced to fully accept the loss. However, there is no set time period that states how long each stage should be experienced. Sometimes, a few stages may be experienced either at once or in quick succession. It is important to remember that individuals grieve differently and one’s loss is different from another’s.
If you feel that yourself or someone is not accepting the loss after a significant time period, please contact your doctor who can put you in contact with a counselling psychologist or other appropriate sources of advice.