The Five Stages of Grief

Ken Corr

The Five Stages of Grief

In her book on grief and grieving, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross suggests that there are five stages of grief. These are helpful in thinking about what it means to grieve and where we are in our own grief process.


The first stage of grief is denial. At first, it may be hard to believe that the loss has happened. You want to imagine that this is all a bad dream from which you will awaken. You find ways to convince yourself that this will all pass and that life will be normal again. There is a sense of shock that this grief has happened, and denial is our way of dealing with shock.


The next stage of grief is anger. Once you realize that the loss is real, you may be angry. Angry at the circumstances, angry at yourself, angry at your loved one, even angry at God. The anger might be expressed as blame. When we’re in the anger stage of grief, our anger often looks for someone or something to blame.


The next stage of grief is bargaining. We think that maybe we can bargain with God to take away the hurt and make things right. We say things like “I promise that I’ll be a better person… I promise that I will devote my life to you.” This form of bargaining is a way to deal with the reality of the loss.


The next stage of grief is depression. I use the words “profound sadness,” because it’s not clinical depression that can be treated with talk therapy or medication, but a profound sadness over the loss. This stage is a deep well of emotional darkness that seemingly has no end, and it’s hard for you to imagine that life will ever be enjoyable again.


The last stage of grief is acceptance. At some point you begin to realize that the loss has happened and it will not change. The question now is: what next? How do you use the loss to move forward into the next stage of life? You will never stop grieving the loss. But the grief will change, and so will you.

Grief is A Process

These are the five stages of grief, and I encourage you to find where you are in your own grief process. These stages are not linear. You will not move easily through the stages from one to the next. Rather, grief is a process, and you might find that you move back and forth. Just when you have moved out of anger into bargaining, you might find yourself back in denial. But in time, you will move through all the stages until you come to a place of healing and comfort.

In his book on grief, David Kessler says, “For most of us, the first step in making meaning out of loss is fully experiencing all the stages of grief, which means feeling the depths of pain and taking the time to live there for a while.”

My hope for you is that regardless of what you are grieving today, you will find a source for healing and help. This is Ken Corr with a mental health moment.