The 5 Stages Of Grief

Another useful grief model… the five stages of grief! Although the Kubler Ross model of grief has also been called “The 5 stages of grief” (learn more about her model at the bottom of this page), there is another 5-step working model or staging of grief that we will discuss here. It introduces some additional, useful concepts on the process of bereavement.

Wooden blocks that spell grief

There is no set timetable to grief, of course, and all of these staging models are meant solely to help you understand some of the commonly experienced emotions and changes you may encounter.

The danger in any “staging” of grief is that it may give people a way to “buttonhole” you into a convenient little category, and predict how you should progress next. And grief just doesn’t work that neatly. Learn more about how grief works here.

The 5 Stages of Grief

  1. NUMBNESS & DENIAL – The first reaction to a loss, numbness or shock, can help cushion the blow and can help you get through the initial mourning rituals with the family and the funeral. This stage can last a few hours, days, or even a few weeks.
  2. YEARNING & ANGER – The numbness wears off, and the painful realization of the loss hits full-force. You will yearn deeply for your lost loved one. You may be angry and have regrets of things left unsaid or dreams never realized.
  3. EMOTIONAL DESPAIR, SADNESS & WITHDRAWAL – The storm of intense emotions of the second stage gives way to a period of heavy sadness, silence, and withdrawal from family and friends.
  4. REORGANIZATION – Reorganization and the beginning of positive emotions. Over time, the sadness stage will start to lessen, and you will begin to see a lightening of your emotions. You will start to perceive your life in a more positive light, although bouts of grief and sadness will persist, probably for the rest of your life.
  5. LETTING GO & MOVING ONThe final phase of this model is to let go of your need for the lost loved one and to move on with your life. Sadness will lessen greatly, and new interests will gradually occupy your thoughts more and more, crowding out the misery and desolation. The final stage is when you “pull your life back together”.


All of the grief models stress that you will never fully “get over” or forget your lost loved one. The grief process allows you to integrate the memory of your lost love into a more manageable place in your psyche and heart so that you can resume a more functional and bearable existence.

Kubler Ross Stages Of Grief

Elizabeth Kubler Ross
Elizabeth Kubler Ross (1926-2004)

Have you ever heard of the Kubler-Ross stages of grief? The one person whose name is linked with the topic of grief in many people’s minds is Elizabeth Kubler-Ross.

She was a Swiss psychiatrist who spent a lot of time comforting and studying dying people in her hospital. She revolutionized the way the world looks at terminally ill patients, and promoted compassion and caring for them.

She made a great contribution to the study of mourning in 1969 by introducing the “5 stages of grief”: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Unfortunately, her theory was largely misunderstood and applied improperly.

You see, she created her model while working with people dying of cancer. The staging was meant to apply to the phases of grief a dying person goes through, not those grieving the death of another person.

Although some of her principles may well apply to those grieving the loss of a loved one, the linear nature of the process she describes really does not apply well to the grief process we have been discussing on this website.

Dr.Kubler-Ross’s work, however, was important pioneering research that is interesting and helpful for us to understand anyway.

The Kubler Ross 5 Stages of Grief

The 5 Kubler Ross stages of grief

  1. Denial: “This cannot happen to me!”
  2. Anger: “Why did this happen to me? Who’s to blame for this?”
  3. Bargaining: “Just let me live ’til my daughter’s wedding, and I’ll do anything”.
  4. Depression: “I am too sad to do anything”.
  5. Acceptance: “I’m at peace with what is coming”.

Dr. Kubler Ross later stated that she had never meant for the 5 stages of grief to “help tuck messy emotions into neat packages”.

There is no single pathway or progression through grief, and that is the main fault of any attempt to stage grief like this. Even the different Kubler-Ross stages can be experienced multiple times, at the same time, and in any order.

So there you have it. That’s the story behind the Kubler Ross stages of grief…

Helpful Resources For Grieving

Back to life ebook

~Are you devastated by the loss of a loved one?
~Bewildered by all the strong emotions and crazy symptoms?
~Wondering how you are ever going to survive?
~Tired of being stuck in complicated grief?

Back To Life! Our Personal Grief Guidebook might be just the help you are looking for. Read more about this most useful and practical recovery guide here: Back To Life!

In addition to the written guidebook, we also offer a unique audio program to help with grief coping and relaxation. If you think an audio approach might be helpful, consider this program:

Grief relief program cover

The 5 stages of grief

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