The Five Stages of Grief

The 5 stages of grief was a model originally designed by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross to describe the process a patient goes through when informed of their terminal prognosis.

These days the ‘grief-cycle’ is used to help people come to terms with many different emotional traumas, including grief experienced on the death of a loved one, relationship break-ups, etc.  The grief model is a way of explaining how and why time heals, or how life goes on.  When we know more about what is happening, then, dealing with it can be a little easier.

The 5 stages of grief are not linear, neither are they equal in their experience.  People do not always experience all the five stages.  Some stages might be revisited.  The transition between the stages is usually more of an ebb and flow than a linear progression.

 The Five Stages of Grief – Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

1.  Denial

Shock, disbelief and confusion.  “This isn’t happening to me”.  A conscious or subconscious refusal to accept the reality of the situation.  This is a perfectly natural mechanism.

2.  Anger

People can be angry at themselves, and / or with others, especially those close to them.  Knowing this could help family / friends / colleagues be patient and understanding when a grieving person lashes out in anger.

3. Bargaining

Traditionally the bargaining stage for people facing death can involve attempting to bargain with whatever God the person believes in.  “I promise I’ll be a better person if…”, or “Please just let me live until…”.

People facing other trauma’s, for example a relationship break-up might ask for friendship in the bargaining phase.

 4.  Depression

This phase varies from person to person involving sadness, regret, fear, numbness, fatigue, etc.  It shows that the person has at least begun to accept the reality.

 5.  Acceptance

 Some emotional detachment and objectivity begins to surface.  “I’m ready, I don’t want to struggle anymore”.  People dying can enter this stage a long time before the people they leave behind.  For those grieving the loss of a loved one, this can be a time where they begin to re-enter a more ‘normal’ social life and are ready to start moving forwards.


Based on the Grief Cycle model first published in ‘On Death & Dying’, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, 1969