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Five Stages of Grief

Understanding Kübler-Ross’s Five Stages of Grief

Grief is a universal human experience. It’s the natural emotional response to the loss of someone or something we hold dear. Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, a Swiss-American psychiatrist, dedicated her life to studying and understanding the process of grieving. She introduced the world to the “Five Stages of Grief” model, which provides a framework for comprehending the emotional journey people go through when dealing with loss. In this blog post, we will explore Kübler-Ross’s model in simple terms to help you better understand and navigate the complex terrain of grief.

What Are the Five Stages of Grief?

1. Denial: Imagine hearing the shocking news that someone you love has passed away. The first reaction for many people is denial. You might find it difficult to accept the reality of the loss. It’s as if your mind is protecting you from the overwhelming emotions that come with the news. You might think, “This can’t be true,” or “It’s just a bad dream.” Denial acts as a temporary buffer against the full impact of the loss.

2. Anger: Once denial begins to fade, the pain starts to seep in. This is when anger often surfaces. You might feel furious about the unfairness of the situation or angry at the person who left you. It’s important to understand that anger is a natural part of the grieving process. You might find yourself asking questions like, “Why did this happen?” or “Why me?” These emotions can be directed towards anyone or anything related to the loss.

3. Bargaining: As the anger begins to subside, you may enter the bargaining stage. During this phase, you may make deals or promises with a higher power, fate, or even the person you’ve lost. You might think, “If only I had done this differently, maybe they would still be here.” Bargaining is an attempt to regain control and reverse the loss, but it often leads to feelings of guilt and self-blame.

4. Depression: Depression in grief doesn’t necessarily mean a clinical diagnosis. Instead, it’s a deep sadness that can permeate your daily life. You may feel overwhelmed by sorrow, loneliness, and emptiness. It’s essential to remember that experiencing depression during grief is normal. You might withdraw from social activities, have trouble sleeping, or feel a constant sense of sadness. This stage is a crucial part of processing your emotions.

5. Acceptance: Finally, after moving through the previous stages, you reach acceptance. This doesn’t mean you’re okay with the loss or that you’ve forgotten about it. Acceptance means you’ve come to terms with the reality of the situation. You’ve found a way to live with the loss and integrate it into your life. You may still feel sadness, but it’s no longer all-consuming. Life can begin to regain some sense of normalcy.

It’s important to note that these stages don’t always occur in a linear order. People can experience them differently, skip stages, or revisit them multiple times. Grief is a unique and personal journey, and there’s no right or wrong way to go through it.

Understanding the Stages in Simple Terms

Now, let’s break down each stage of grief into simple terms:

1. Denial: Denial is like your mind’s shield, protecting you from the initial shock of loss. It’s a way of saying, “I can’t believe this is happening.”

2. Anger: Anger is like a volcano erupting inside you. You might feel mad at the world for taking something or someone precious away from you.

3. Bargaining: Bargaining is like trying to strike a deal with fate. You want to turn back time and make things different, even though you know it’s impossible.

4. Depression: Depression is like a heavy raincloud that follows you everywhere. It makes you feel sad, isolated, and like you’re carrying a heavy burden.

5. Acceptance: Acceptance is like finding a place for the loss in your heart. It doesn’t mean you’ve forgotten or stopped loving; it means you’ve learned to live with the pain.

Tips for Navigating Grief

Now that you understand Kübler-Ross’s Five Stages of Grief, here are some tips to help you or someone you know navigate the grieving process:

1. Be patient with yourself: Grief takes time, and there’s no deadline for moving through the stages. Allow yourself to feel and express your emotions at your own pace.

2. Seek support: Don’t go through grief alone. Share your feelings with friends, family, or a therapist who can provide a listening ear and emotional support.

3. Take care of your physical health: Grief can take a toll on your body. Try to eat well, exercise, and get enough sleep to help you cope with the emotional strain.

4. Create a memorial: Honoring the memory of what you’ve lost can be therapeutic. Consider creating a memorial, writing in a journal, or doing something meaningful in their honor.

5. Consider professional help: If you find that grief is severely impacting your life, it may be helpful to seek the guidance of a mental health professional who specializes in grief and loss such Elevate Psychologists Sydney.


Grief is a natural response to loss, and Kübler-Ross’s Five Stages of Grief model provides a framework for understanding the emotional journey that accompanies it. Remember that these stages are not rigid, and everyone experiences grief differently. Be patient with yourself or those around you who are grieving, and seek support when needed from Elevate Psychologists. Grief is a challenging journey, but with time and support, healing is possible, and acceptance can bring a sense of peace and closure.

Sometimes, the grief model is expanded to 7 stages which can be read about here.