The 5 Stages of Loss and Grief

To lose a loved one unexpectedly is without a doubt, one of the hardest things a person can go through in their lifetime. To have someone they love ripped away from them is terribly shocking, and the mourning period after the fact is even worse. This article highlights the 5 main stages of Loss and Grief that a person goes through after a loved one has passed. If you have had the unfortunate time in which you have lost someone, or know someone who’s loved one has died, this article will help you understand what your body and mind are doing psychologically to help you deal with the pain.


Denial is the first step in the grieving process. This step usually happens right after hearing the news that a loved one has died. Psychologically, your brain is going into denial about the situation to help rationalize the supreme loss and pain that you are about to go through as a result of the loss of a loved one. Going into denial is your mind’s way of saying, “No, this is not possible. This can’t be true,” and as the grieving process moves further on and more time has passed since learning the news, these feeling of denial fade as you face the reality.


As the feelings of denial fade, the next step is anger. It’s another mechanism that your mind gives you to further guard yourself from the reality. But instead of just not facing the reality of the death, your mind tells you to make your feeling shown through anger. This anger can be towards people or inanimate objects. For example: Think if someone’s mother died in a car crash that was caused by a drunk driver. That child whose mother died might have anger towards the drunk driver, or even the car itself. Another example would be if a person lost a loved one due to cancer. That person might feel anger towards the doctors who diagnosed the cancer; the chemotherapy for not working to expel the cancer, or the anger could be pointed towards the cancer itself. Everyone’s anger is different in different situations.


Bargaining is just a fancy term for thinking about what would happen if you did something different. Usually they would come in, “If only… then maybe…” statements. To better explain this go back to the previous example I used about the mother who died in a car crash. An example of bargaining in that situation would be, “If only I didn’t ask my mom to go to the store for me, then she wouldn’t be on the road and she wouldn’t have gotten killed by a drunk driver,” or, “If only the guy who was drunk had a designated driver, then maybe he wouldn’t be on the road and my mom wouldn’t have died.” It’s a way that our mind deals with the vulnerability and feelings of helplessness that is inevitable after the death of a loved one.


After bargaining, depression overflows the mind. This stage of mourning is most often the longest and hardest to go through. At this time, the mind stops thinking about what would of happened or the anger at something that caused it to happen, and it moves on to what happens now. This is the period in which the harsh reality of the situation kicks in and you must think about how to move on from this. There are two main types of depression: public and private. Public depression is depression that you feel comfortable sharing with family and friends. Most of the thoughts during this type of depression is associated with the practical impact of the loss of a loved one. How do we pay for the funeral? How much life insurance did he/she have? What would the cost be for the burial? These questions and others like it are typically solved as a family, hence why it is called public depression.

The second type of depression is private depression. This is when your mind first really settles down from the time that you heard the news, and really focuses on what’s going to happen now in your life without them. How do you move on with your life? Why move on at all? All these questions run through your head as you focus on the future rather than the past. The thoughts during this type of depression are usually extremely personal, and that is why this prolonged depression is usually done in private rather than with others. Remember, depression is something that is extremely normal when grieving. It may take a long period of time in your life; it is not something that you can just snap out of as some people may think.


Once all the chaos has died down, and you realize that you just have gone through one of the hardest things to go through in life, the next step is acceptance. This is the time when you mind finally let’s you move on and you learn to cope with the loss. You realize that life really does go on without that loved one, and it is your job to be happy again. It is truly what your loved one would have wanted. You may not be realizing it, but soon you will be able to look back on all those incredible and cherished memories of your loved one and no longer feel sad or depressed. These feeling of sadness and depression will be replaced with joy and fondness.

If you are currently dealing with grief or know someone that has lost a loved one, please remember that these are just the basic guidelines to grief. Every person is different. Please do not think that you must go through every single one of these steps, in that exact order. And lastly, the only person that can truly help you through all the stages of grief is yourself. One way you can help yourself is to go further in depth to understand grief. This article is written to understand those feelings and understand what you have to do to move on to acceptance.


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