What are the stages of grief? A search of the internet will turn up articles on 4 stages, 5 stages and even 7 stages of grief. The concept of stages has evolved from the “5 stages of dying” popularized by Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her book, On Death and Dying, originally published in 1969. According to Dr. Kübler-Ross, the stages that a dying person goes through are:
- Denial and Isolation — initially the person denies that the situation exists, “It cannot possibly be,” and may withdraw and isolate himself from others.
- Anger — the person becomes angry about the situation and may place blame on herself or others, “It’s not fair that this is happening to me.”
- Bargaining — the person makes a deal with God, “Let me live and I will do this …”
- Depression — the person is overcome with sadness and despair, “It’s hopeless, why bother with anything?”
- Acceptance — feelings of anger and sadness have subsided and the person accepts the reality of the situation and decides to make the best of it.
The Real Meaning of the Stages
Dr. Kübler-Ross’ stages have since been applied to grief and other forms of personal loss, such as loss of a job or onset of a disability. In her book, On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief Through the Five Stages of Loss, Dr. Kübler-Ross says,
“The stages have evolved since their introduction, and they have been very misunderstood over the past three decades. They were never meant to help tuck messy emotions into neat packages. They are responses to loss that many people have, but there is not a typical response to loss, as there is no typical loss. Our grief is as individual as our lives.”
She goes on to say of the 5 stages, “They are tools to help us frame and identify what we may be feeling. But they are not stops on some linear timeline in grief. Not everyone goes through all of them or goes in a prescribed order.”
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