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Stages of Grief

Grief can be one of the most painful, and natural, responses to the loss of a loved one, a pet, a physical ability, or something that means a great deal to you. The process of grieving does not always look the same for every person, and sometimes this can create tension or conflict within relationships. There are several models that explore grief, but the 5 stages identified by Kubler-Ross include denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. (1)

Denial – This is not happening. It’s not real.

Anger – Why would this happen to me? Why would this happen to them?

Bargaining – I will do anything, promise anything, to change this circumstance.

Depression – What’s the point of continuing life like this?

Acceptance – I know this happened, and it’s time to cope. I can’t change this circumstance.

When someone is experiencing grief, going through these stages and emotional shifts can be difficult. Grief may be experienced in this order, but it also may be experienced in a different way. Sometimes, a person may experience bargaining, then go back to anger when they don’t receive the solution they are bargaining for. There is no right or wrong way to grieve the loss of something or someone who was important to you. Grief may last for a short amount of time, or it may be prolonged. This depends on each person’s individual response to grief. Not everyone needs to see a therapist for grief, however it can be helpful in both the short-term and long-term. Some people find that support from a therapist is helpful if the emotions experienced in grief are particularly painful and intense.

Some people find that it is helpful to express their grief through talking and sharing stories about life before the loss. Others find that journaling, spending time outdoors, or art helps them express their painful emotions. In the loss of a loved one, there may be a celebration of life, memorial, or other forms of remembrance. There may be a combination of all the above. The important thing is doing what is best for each experience both individually and as a group or community.

Finding the right words to say or what to do can sometimes be challenging. When we see someone we love in pain, there can be a tendency to want to fix it or give advice about how to get through it. While this may be well intentioned, it is not always the best thing to do. If you can resist the urge to fix, and instead simply be present for the person grieving, it can go a long way. Show kindness and remind your loved one that you care for them and are here for them.

Grieving, much like other journeys of healing, is not a linear process. Be gentle with yourself.

1: National Institutes of Health:

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