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The 7 Stages of Grief

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Published 17/05/2021
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You may have heard of the idea that grief comes in stages, the current model being seven stages of grief. It may not be like this for everybody, as everyone grieves in different ways, but it gives a general idea of what grieving people go through. You may experience every stage on the list, or you may experience things that aren’t on the list.

The original theory by psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross only had five stages, the other two have been added recently to make a more complete idea of the process of grieving.

It is important to remember that this model cannot be applied to everyone, and if you do not find it helpful in dealing with your grief then it is fine to turn to a different resource.

So, what are the 7 stages of grief?

Stage 1 - Shock and Disbelief

The first stage of grief is shock, which is a defence mechanism to protect you from pain. It is this that allows people to plan funerals and take care of any other arrangements needed, as the grief is suspended due to the shock. You may feel numb, and it may feel like you are just going through the motions for a while.

Stage 2 - Denial

Denial can mean refusing to believe that your loved one is gone, denying that you are affected by their loss, or even just trying not to think about it, pushing the thoughts to the back of your mind. Again, this is your mind protecting you from something painful. Once you are ready, you will move on to the next stage.

Stage 3 - Guilt

It’s normal when you’ve lost a loved one to wonder if you could have done anything to prevent it from happening, or to think you did not do enough while they were alive. It is normal to have regrets, and it is normal to think it may be your fault. These feelings are common in people who are grieving, but it is important not to let them consume you. It may be difficult, but try to let go of the guilt, even if it is only a little at a time. Speaking to someone about the guilt you may be feeling could also help.

Stage 4 - Anger and Bargaining

It is common for this stage to occur after the funeral, when you are expected to go back to “normal” life. You may start to feel anger towards the doctors, your family, yourself, or even the deceased. This is entirely normal and allows an outlet for your emotions. The anger may not always be rational, and you may feel angry at people for no reason. It is important to try to control your anger, and find healthy ways to overcome it.

Some people may also begin to bargain with themselves, with thoughts such as what they would do to get their loved one back, or bargaining with a higher power to return their loved one.

Stage 5 - Depression, Loneliness and Reflection

Depression occurs when you have started to accept the loss, allowing you to feel the grief and sadness of your loved one passing away, but are struggling to cope with it. This feeling could make you feel lonely and isolated from other loved ones. You may want to be alone during this time, which will allow you to reflect on the situation and help you begin to overcome it.

Stage 6 - Reconstruction

In this stage, you “reconstruct” your life without your loved one, learning to live without them. You may not have fully accepted their death, but you know that life must go on. You will still feel sadness, but you will be able to function despite it.

Stage 7 - Acceptance

This is the final stage, meaning you have accepted that your loved one has passed away and what that means for you and your life. It allows you to live your life without them, maybe even able to think of them without sadness, remembering the happy times you had with them rather than the fact they are no longer there.
Remember this is not a list that will work for everybody, and you may not experience the stages in this order. You may even get to the end of one stage, only to go back a couple of steps - this is all normal. There is no time scale for how quickly you will get through each stage - it is different with every person.

It is important to remember you may never get over your grief fully. You will have good days and bad days; even when you are in the acceptance stage, you may be reminded of your loved ones death by something of theirs you come across tidying up, or special days like their birthday or occasions may fill you with sadness. Again, this is normal and it is important to let yourself be sad on those occasions.

If you are struggling with your grief, please consider speaking to someone (your doctor, a grief counsellor etc.) who will be able to help you deal with it. You can also visit our bereavement support page:
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