What Are the 5 Stages of Loss and Grief?

Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance don't necessarily happen in order and it's possible to only go through a few of the five stages.

January 17, 2023
4 min

The “5 stages of grief” is a term coined by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, a Swiss-American psychiatrist. Even though Kübler-Ross had initially only developed the concept to apply to people facing their own death, the concept is now applied to dealing with grief in general. Understanding these different stages of loss and grief can help individuals work through their emotions and find ways to heal.

One thing to remember is while going through the five stages of grief is that they don’t necessarily happen in order. Kübler-Ross made this clarification, emphasizing the non-linear nature of grief and also reminding readers that not everyone will experience all five stages.

  1. Denial: When faced with the reality of loss, it is common for individuals to initially feel shock and disbelief. They may feel numb and may not want to accept the reality of the situation. This is a normal coping mechanism that allows individuals to process the loss slowly, rather than being overwhelmed all at once.
  2. Anger: As the reality of the loss begins to sink in, individuals may start to feel angry. They may feel angry at the person who died, at themselves, or at the circumstances surrounding the loss. It is important to recognize and express these feelings, as bottling them up can lead to further emotional pain.
  3. Bargaining: During this stage, individuals may try to make deals with themselves or a higher power in an attempt to reverse the loss. They may have thoughts such as, "If only I had done things differently, this wouldn't have happened." It is important to recognize that these thoughts are a normal part of the grieving process, but they cannot change the reality of the loss.
  4. Depression: As the initial shock of the loss begins to fade, individuals may start to feel more depressed. They may feel a sense of sadness and hopelessness, and may have difficulty finding joy in activities they once enjoyed. This is a natural part of the grieving process and it is important to allow oneself to feel these emotions and to seek support from friends and loved ones.
  5. Acceptance: Eventually, individuals will reach a stage of acceptance, where they are able to come to terms with the reality of the loss. They may still feel sadness and may continue to miss the person or thing that was lost, but they will be able to move forward and find ways to cope with the loss.

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