Grief is a universal and profound experience that touches everyone at some point, and the loss of a loved one often triggers it. Understanding the stages of grief can be vital in navigating this challenging process.

But what are these stages? Are there five or seven stages of grief, and do they occur in a sequential order?

Here we answer the questions you might have about the different stages of grief, how to seek grief counselling and simple ways you can support loved ones who are grieving.

 

Are There 5 Or 7 Stages Of Grief?

In 1969, Swiss-American psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross proposed the concept of the five stages of grief. Through her groundbreaking book, “On Death and Dying,” Kübler-Ross introduced the world to the five stages of grief.

However, the journey of understanding grief didn’t stop there; the model has since been expanded to include seven stages, aiming to capture the complexities of grieving experiences more accurately.

Remember, experiencing grief is unique to each individual; some may not undergo every stage, and the sequence may differ, which is entirely normal.

Now, let’s delve deeper into each stage, what you or a loved one may experience, and discover the seven grief stages. You’ll also learn a few tips on how to support and offer support to grieving people.

 

What Are The Five Stages Of Grief?

The original model presented by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross outlines five pivotal stages of grief. These stages articulate the range of emotions and states of mind people often traverse following a loss.

Though these stages provide a structured insight into the grieving process, it is essential to approach them as guidelines rather than a universal or linear progression, recognising the subjective nature of grief.

Denial

The first stage acts as a defence mechanism, offering a temporary respite from the imminent pain. The denial stage is where reality is blurred, and accepting the truth of the situation is exceptionally challenging. The bereaved may live in a preferable reality where the loss hasn’t occurred.

Example: A person may continue to believe that a recently deceased loved one will walk through the door any moment, refusing to acknowledge the irreversible reality of their passing.

Anger

The suppressed emotions and the excruciating pain subsequently morph into the second stage, anger. This emotion can be directed towards oneself, others, the situation, or even the deceased. It’s a manifestation of the intense pain lurking beneath the surface.

Example: A person might express resentment towards doctors for not saving their loved one or towards friends who didn’t understand the depth of their bond with the deceased.

Bargaining

In the bargaining stage, individuals often find themselves entangled in a web of ‘what if’ and ‘if only’ statements. They may make deals with a higher power, promising to lead a better life in return for reversing their loss or alleviating their pain.

Example: A grieving individual might promise to dedicate their life to helping others if only their loved one could be brought back to life.

Depression

The overwhelming sadness and despair set in as the reality and magnitude of the loss sinks in. The individual may feel consumed by regret, loneliness, and a lack of interest in the outside world, withdrawing into a shell.

Example: A person might start isolating themselves from social interactions, lose interest in hobbies and daily activities, and struggle to find purpose and meaning in life.

Acceptance

This final stage is not a destination but a process where the bereaved learn to live with their loss. The last stage of grief is not about embracing the loss but acknowledging it and finding a way to carve a path forward, to live a meaningful life despite the absence.

Example: A person starts planning for the future, engaging in life again, and possibly finding new meanings and purposes in their experiences without forgetting their loved one.

What Are The Seven Stages Of Grief?

Some psychologists propose a seven-stage model to represent the intricate facets of grief more thoroughly. These stages include the following:

  • Shock And Denial: The initial reaction is marked by disbelief and emotional pain or numbness. In this stage, a person may experience a sense of detachment upon receiving bad news.
  • Pain And Guilt: As the shock and feeling of denial wear off, it is replaced by suffering and remorse. You or your loved ones might think that you’re responsible for not preventing the loss.
  • Anger And Bargaining: Similar to the five-stage model, this stage involves frustration and negotiations to alleviate the pain. Expressing rage towards the perceived source of pain and making promises for relief.
  • Depression: Characterised by intense sorrow and despair as the reality of the loss sets in. People in this stage lose interest in life and experience continuous sadness.
  • The Upward Turn: The intensity of the pain begins to lift slowly. In this stage, you or your loved ones gradually return the feeling of optimism and energy.
  • Reconstruction And Working Through: Actively working through the pain and making realistic plans for the future. This is where a grieving person develops new coping mechanisms and strategies.
  • Acceptance And Hope: Embracing the reality of the loss and learning to move forward with newfound strength and perspective. This is where you or your loved ones find peace and meaning in the experiences and look forward to the future.

Do The Stages Of Grief Happen In Order?

Contrary to common perception, the stages of grief are not a linear progression. The grieving individual might experience them in a different order, skip some stages, revisit others, or even experience more than one at a time. 

Recognising this nonlinear nature of grief is crucial in understanding and accepting one’s or another’s grieving process.

3 Tips To Help Loved Ones During Their Grieving Process

Understanding the stages of grief is vital, not only for personal healing but also to support those around us who are grieving. Empathy, patience, and support can be the key to helping someone navigate through their sorrow.

Be Present And Listen

Your presence can be a comforting solace to someone in grief. Listen empathetically without judgement, allowing them to express their feelings and thoughts freely, without pressure to respond or advise. Your support can provide a safe, non-judgmental space for them to navigate their pain.

Offer Practical Help

Grieving individuals often struggle with daily tasks. Offering assistance with mundane chores like grocery shopping, meal preparations, or childcare can alleviate their burden, allowing them to focus on their emotional healing process. Being proactive in your support can alleviate additional stressors during their painful journey.

Encourage Professional Help

While friends and family members are crucial, sometimes the intensity of grief necessitates professional intervention. 

Encourage your loved ones to seek grief counselling or join support groups where they can talk about their experiences and gain insights from others who have experienced similar losses. Professional help can provide coping mechanisms and support to navigate through the complex emotional landscape of grief.

 

Conclusion About The Stages Of Grief

It is essential to remember that people experience grief differently; there is no right or wrong way to grieve, and the stages might not occur in a predetermined order. 

Whether you are experiencing grief personally or supporting someone in their journey, acknowledging and understanding these stages of grief can pave the way for healing and eventual acceptance. 

At Casket Fairprice, we understand that managing the stages of grief can be confusing, and we hope to support you and your family members through it. You can book here for online counselling services that are private, convenient, and high-quality.

 

Frequently Asked Questions About The Stages Of Grief

What Is The Hardest Stage Of Grief?

There isn’t a universally “hardest” stage of grief, as the experience of grieving varies widely from individual to individual. However, many find the initial stages of shock and denial or the subsequent stages of pain, guilt, and anger intensely challenging due to the overwhelming surge of emotions.

How Long Does Each Stage Of Grief Last?

The duration or how long each stage of grief lasts is not fixed and can vary significantly among individuals. Some might linger in one stage for an extended period, while others may progress more swiftly. 

Grief is a profoundly personal journey, and various factors influence its course, including the nature of the loss, individual personality, coping mechanisms, and support systems.

How Do You Know What Stage Of Grief You Are In?

Recognising the stage of grief you are in involves introspection and acknowledgement of your feelings and reactions. Distinct emotions and behaviours characterise each stage. 

For example, shock and denial are marked by disbelief and numbness, whereas feelings of frustration and irritation characterise anger. Familiarity with the stages of grief can assist in identifying one’s current stage.

What Is The Most Common Grief Process Pattern?

There isn’t a “most common” grief process pattern due to the highly individualised nature of grief. However, many people find understanding through Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s models, either the original one outlining five stages of grief or the expanded seven stages of grief model.

Your Title Goes HereWhat Is The Difference Between Grief And Mourning?

Grief is the internal experience of loss, the emotional response encompassing sadness, anger, guilt, and despair. It is the inner pain when they lose someone or something they are attached to. 

On the other hand, mourning is the outward expression of grief, the process through which grief is publicly displayed and managed, often conforming to cultural or societal norms and practices, such as funerals, memorial services, and periods of reflection.