The 7 Stages of Grief You Must Know

Woman experiencing grief

What is grief?

Grief is a complex and deeply personal emotional response to loss, encompassing a range of feelings and reactions when individuals face the absence or end of someone or something significant in their lives. It is important to know that grief does not just occur after the loss of something/someone you love it comes in stages, known as the 7 stages of grief. As a therapist, I approach grief as a natural and integral part of the human experience, acknowledging that it manifests uniquely for each person. It is not limited to the death of a loved one but extends to various losses, such as the end of a relationship, a job, or a way of life.

When clients grapple with grief, I emphasize the importance of recognizing and validating their emotions without judgment. Grief is not a linear process but rather a dynamic journey with phases of sorrow, anger, denial, bargaining, and acceptance. Understanding that these emotions can coexist and evolve over time is crucial for individuals navigating the complexities of grief.

In therapy, I guide clients through the exploration of their unique grieving process, encouraging them to express their emotions authentically. Whether it's the ache of a broken heart or the void left by a departed loved one, grief requires compassionate acknowledgment and patient self-discovery. Through this therapeutic approach, individuals can gradually integrate their experiences, finding meaning and resilience in the midst of sorrow. Grief becomes a transformative process, fostering personal growth and paving the way for a renewed sense of purpose.

Grief Therapy

If you are experiencing grief or loss of any kind click here to learn more.

What are the 7 stages of grief?

The seven stages of grief, also known as the Kübler-Ross model, were first proposed by Swiss-American psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her book "On Death and Dying" in 1969. The model describes the emotional journey that people go through after experiencing a significant loss, such as the death of a loved one, the end of a relationship, or a major life change. It's important to note that not everyone will experience all seven stages or will experience them in a linear fashion. The stages are:

stages of grief

  1. Shock and Denial: The first stage is characterized by disbelief and a feeling of numbness. It is a way for the mind to protect itself from the overwhelming emotions that come with loss. People in this stage may feel as though the event did not happen or that it happened to someone else.
  2. Anger: As the shock wears off, people may begin to feel angry about their loss. This anger can be directed at the person who has passed away, a higher power, or even at themselves. It is a normal and natural reaction to loss.
  3. Bargaining: In this stage, people may try to make deals with a higher power or try to find ways to "fix" the situation. They may find themselves saying things like "If only I had done this differently, maybe things would have turned out differently."
  4. Depression: This stage is marked by a deep sadness and a feeling of hopelessness. People may withdraw from social activities and feel as though they will never be happy again. This is a normal and necessary stage of the grieving process, but it's important to seek help if the feelings persist for an extended period.
  5. Acceptance: As people begin to come to terms with their loss, they may reach a stage of acceptance. This doesn't mean that they are necessarily happy about what has happened, but they have come to a place of peace with it.
  6. Meaning: In this stage, people may try to find meaning in their loss. They may ask questions like "What was the purpose of this?" or "How can I honor the memory of the person I lost?"
  7. Hope: The final stage of grief is marked by a feeling of hope for the future. People may begin to feel as though they can move on and find happiness again.

It's important to note that these stages are not set in stone, and people may move back and forth between them or skip some entirely. Grief is a unique and individual experience, and people should allow themselves to feel their emotions and seek support as needed. It's also important to remember that the grieving process is not a linear one and that people may experience the stages differently, at different times, or in a different order.

How to deal with the Stages of Grief

1. Shock and Denial:

During this initial stage, individuals may struggle to accept the reality of their loss. Shock and denial serve as protective mechanisms that help manage overwhelming emotions. Coping strategies for this stage include:

a. Allow yourself to feel: Acknowledge and accept your emotions, even if they seem contradictory.
b. Seek support: Surround yourself with understanding friends or family members who can provide comfort.
c. Create routines: Establishing a daily routine can bring a sense of stability during a tumultuous time.

2. Anger:

As reality sets in, anger may arise as a way of expressing the pain and frustration associated with loss. Coping strategies for the anger stage include:

a. Express your emotions: Find healthy outlets for anger, such as journaling, talking to a friend, or engaging in physical activities.
b. Practice self-compassion: Understand that anger is a natural part of the grieving process, and be gentle with yourself.
c. Seek professional help: Consider counseling or therapy to explore and manage intense emotions.

3. Bargaining:

During this stage, individuals may attempt to make deals or negotiate with a higher power to reverse or alleviate the pain of loss. Coping strategies for the bargaining stage include:

a. Reflect on your beliefs: Consider the role of spirituality or personal beliefs in your coping process.
b. Set realistic goals: Focus on aspects of your life that you can control, and set achievable objectives.
c. Establish a support system: Share your feelings with trusted friends or family who can offer perspective and guidance.

4. Depression:

Feelings of overwhelming sadness and despair may characterize the depression stage. Coping strategies for this stage include:

a. Prioritize self-care: Pay attention to your physical and emotional well-being by getting enough sleep, eating healthily, and exercising.
b. Seek professional help: Consult with a mental health professional to address and manage symptoms of depression.
c. Connect with others: Share your feelings with those you trust, and consider joining support groups.

5. Acceptance:

Acceptance involves coming to terms with the reality of the loss and finding a way to move forward. Coping strategies for the acceptance stage include:

a. Embrace the pain: Understand that healing is a gradual process, and it's okay to grieve at your own pace.
b. Focus on positive memories: Celebrate the positive aspects of the relationship or experience that you've lost.
c. Set new goals: Establish realistic goals for the future, incorporating the lessons learned from the grieving process.

6. Meaning:

Finding meaning in the midst of grief involves making sense of the loss and integrating it into one's life story. Coping strategies for the meaning stage include:

a. Reflect on personal growth: Consider the ways in which the grieving process has influenced your personal development.
b. Engage in meaningful activities: Pursue activities that align with your values and contribute to a sense of purpose.
c. Share your story: Opening up about your experiences can help you and others find meaning in the face of loss.

7. Hope:

Hope marks the final stage of grief, where individuals begin to envision a future that includes joy and fulfillment. Coping strategies for the hope stage include:

a. Cultivate gratitude: Focus on the positive aspects of your life and express gratitude for the resilience you've shown.
b. Foster connections: Build and strengthen relationships with friends, family, and your community.
c. Set future goals: Create realistic and achievable goals that align with your aspirations for the future.

The journey through grief is unique for each individual, and there is no right or wrong way to grieve. This guide provides a roadmap for coping with the 7 stages of grief, offering practical strategies to navigate the emotional challenges that accompany loss. It's essential to remember that healing takes time, and seeking support from friends, family, and professionals can contribute to a more resilient and hopeful future.

< Back to Blog