The 5 Stages of Grief

The 5 Stages of Grief

Grieving someone is one of the most heart-wrenching events that you will ever have to face in your lifetime, especially if that loss occurs unexpectedly or without cause. This can be particularly difficult if you have not experienced grief before, regardless of whether the cause is a disease, disability, illness, condition, or death of a loved one. It doesn’t matter the diagnosis or how old that person was at the time of death. Nothing can truly prepare you for the inevitable. Life is fleeting. A loss is still a loss, no matter the kind and regardless of what people may tell you. There is no end to the grieving process.

Grief Affects Everyone

Grief affects everyone in different, sometimes more trying, ways than others. It comes in waves full of complex emotions, waves made of ups and downs, extreme high-highs, or intense low-lows, all of which vary from person to person. For example, one minute, you might feel content, and the next, you might feel as though your world, including everything and everyone you once knew, has been ripped out from underneath you. 

The truth is you will never truly “get over” the loss of that loved one who went before you. You will learn to rebuild yourself and live around the loss you have suffered, but you will never be the same. Nor will you ever truly go back to the person you once were before the mayhem of that loss entirely blurred your vision or your dream. Don’t worry – Alter San Diego Crisis Intervention is here for you. 

The 5 Stages of Grief

Speaking of grieving, Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, psychiatrist and author of On Death and Dying (1969) developed The 5 Stages of Grief Model. Many people today refer to this as the most commonly taught model for understanding the psychological reaction to impending death. 

These 5 stages include:

#1 Denial

Denial is a common defense mechanism used to protect oneself from the hardship that comes along with having to confront a harsh reality. In her study, Kubler-Ross noted that patients would reject the reality of this new information after the initial shock of having received the terminal diagnosis. Patients may directly deny the diagnosis, blame it on an “unqualified” physician, or simply avoid the topic of illness altogether. While persistent denial may be seen as detrimental, it’s a normal reaction and is vital for processing difficult information.

#2 Anger 

According to Kubler-Ross’s model, anger is a necessary stage of grief and can manifest itself in different ways. People dealing with emotional distress can become extremely irate with others, including themselves. Anger is a powerful emotion that gives us courage and represents authenticity and underlying pain. 

Much like the first stage, anger is not at all uncommon for patients to place blame or become combative with those around them. For instance, they may blame medical professionals for inadequately preventing the illness, family members for contributing to the risk factors, or a higher power or spiritual healer for the diagnosis’ injustice. Knowing this helps keep people detached and non-judgmental when experiencing the backlash of someone who is hurting mentally, physically, and emotionally.

#3 Bargaining 

The act of bargaining traditionally manifests once patients attempt to seek some measure of control over their illness. This negotiation could be verbalized or internal and could be medical, social, or religious. For instance, both patients and grievers may make more rational bargains as a plea to help them alleviate their pain. Some examples of this may include:

  • A commitment to adhere to a treatment plan 
  • A promise to listen to the advice and/or recommendations of a physician,
  • An acceptance of the help of their caregivers.

Whereas other bargains may represent more irrational thinking, such as efforts to appease misattributed guilt that they may feel is responsible for their sickness, bargaining may mobilize active participation from patients. Healthcare providers and caregivers should be careful not to encourage too many irrational negotiation tactics practiced by the terminally ill. 

#4 Depression

Depression is referred to as preparatory grieving, which, in more ways than one, acts like a dress rehearsal for what’s to come. It’s perhaps the most relatable of the 5 stages and affects everyone in different ways. For it is somewhat similar to acceptance with an emotional attachment being involved. 

That said, it’s normal to feel feelings of regret, shame, heartache, uncertainty, or fearfulness. It’s okay to feel lost at the sheer thought of that person, let alone yourself, no longer being on this earth and not having the opportunity to live another day above ground. At the same time, though, it exhibits growth that the person, whether that person is the griever or the terminally ill, might be one step closer to reaching acceptance. Alter San Diego Crisis Intervention has all the kindness, staff, and support you need to help you feel less alone.

#5 Acceptance

No, you may never be “okay” with the loss you have suffered. However, no matter how sad, unfortunate, or bittersweet it is, in this stage, many people come to the realization that they cannot turn back time and have to find a new way of living without their loved ones. Yes, your loved one is no longer here for you physically, but they are always with you in spirit. They will guide you into the light and remain in your heart forever.

Grief is a challenging process and no one ever said that saying goodbye to a loved one would be easy; because it’s quite possibly the most difficult thing that you will ever have to face in your lifetime. So, without properly addressing the corresponding feelings that oftentimes appear in the wake of a loss, it can lead to depression as well as many other mental illnesses that we treat here at Alter San Diego Crisis Intervention. For more information, please call do yourself a favor and call us today at (866) 986-1481; because if anyone deserves to have their spirit renewed and reach some level of normalcy again, it is you.