5 Stages of Grief

In 1969, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross published “On Death and Dying,” which pointed to our lack of knowledge about, and by extension, our inability to care for, the dying. Her work in describing the five stages patients go through when faced with their own death has now entered the folklore of literature. Since that time, her “five stages” have become a useful, if incomplete, guide for those who have experienced a loss of any kind.

Adapted from Kubler-Ross, a loss experience involves the following five stages of emotional response:  (1) denial,  (2) anger,  (3) bargaining,  (4) despair, (5) acceptance.

  • These stages of grief are normal and are to be expected.
  • The five stages can occur in either the sequence presented or in any variety of sequences.
  • The stages can recur during a loss experience.
  • One stage can last a long time, uninterrupted.
  • The loss process can last anywhere from several months to several years.
  • It is healthier to accept these stages and recognize them for what they are rather than to fight them off or to ignore them.
  • Working out each stage of the loss response ensures a return to emotional health and adaptive functioning.
  • Getting outside support and help during the grieving process will assist in gaining objectivity and understanding.