The Five Stages of Grief model was developed by Swiss-American psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her 1969 book On Death and Dying. For this reason, it is sometimes referred to as the Kübler-Ross model. The Five Stages of Grief model suggests an individual transition through five distinct stages after experiencing loss: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
Understanding the Five Stages of Grief model
As the title of the book suggests, the model initially focused on the grief and emotions experienced by terminally ill cancer patients. The scope of the model was then extended and applies to any life event causing loss. This might include the end of a long-term relationship, moving to a new school or city, or pandemic-induced social isolation.
In dealing with a loss of any kind, it’s important to note that there are no right or wrong emotions. Everyone mourns differently, and there are no constraints on how long the process should take. However, an individual can use the model to provide clarity on where they are in their own grieving process and can also use it to support a friend or family member.
The five stages of grief
Here is a general look at the five stages of grief:
- Denial – the most common first response to loss, denial acts a defense mechanism and is thought to buffer the initial shock of a traumatic experience. At this early stage, the mind may deny reality as it tries to adjust to a new normal.
- Anger – often the result of extreme emotional discomfort, anger is also common because it tends to be more socially acceptable than a concession of fear or apprehension. That is, anger allows the individual to express emotion with less potential for judgment or rejection.
- Bargaining – in the bargaining stage, the individual wrongly assumes they can avoid grief through a type of negotiation. They may try to get their life back to how it was by making a major change. This attempt is precipitated by guilt and “what-if” statements where the individual wrongly assumes responsibility for what has occurred.
- Depression – eventually, the individual begins to accept that the loss is real and happening. Intense sadness can envelop them, leading to fatigue, confusion, loss of appetite, and a general disinterest in life. This stage is typically temporary – but some may experience depression for years or the rest of their lives.
- Acceptance – in the final stage, the individual resists the urge to deny or change their situation. To some extent, acceptance is a period of adjustment and readjustment. There are good days and bad days, with some degree of pain, sadness, or regret remaining. Most people then grow and evolve based on their new reality.
- The Five Stages of Grief model suggests an individual transitions through five distinct stages after experiencing a traumatic loss. The model was developed by psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross after a study of terminally ill cancer patients.
- The Five Stages of Grief model helps normalize the range of emotions experienced after a loss. Each stage provides clarity on where an individual is at in their own grieving process. This clarity can also be used to best support others.
- The five stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. The intensity and duration of each stage will vary according to the individual.
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