Stages of Grief or Mourning
The five stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance.
It should be noted that there are two aspects of grieving associated with death and dying -
that of the person who is dying, and that of the person or persons who mourn the loss of
someone who has died.
It should be remembered that these five stages of grieving are not a linear progression,
but are stages that can happen in any order. These stages are different for each person
because or their life experiences. The stages will happen in the order the individual
needs, for the amount of time that is needed, and as often as needed. Grieving is a
process that is unique for each person - whether they are the person preparing for death
or the person who is left behind to mourn. Many well meaning people think that the
grieving process does or should stop with the end of the funeral, it does not. Any of the
stages can happen multiple times, often cycling through all five stages in one day, or even
one hour. This is a healthy, natural progression of grief. For some the process can take
years to fully finish.
There is also anticipatory grief - the grief we feel before our loved one dies. This is
experienced by both the person facing death and the family members and friends. It is a
healthy reaction to being told of a terminal illness or any other cause of death that allows
sufficient time before death occurs. The five stages of grief are experienced during this
time, and again after the death occurs.
The stages explained:
Denial - this does not mean that the person refuses to believe that a death is going to or
has occurred. It means that the person is having trouble accepting the whole reality
emotionally and/or mentally. They know that it is real, but the shock is too much for them to
handle all at one time and they have to take it all in slowly, a piece at a time. This is
healthy, it is the human mind's way of protecting itself from too much trauma.
Anger - this anger has many faces and can be directed an anyone involved no matter how
remotely. Anger is a necessary stage in healing through the grief process. This anger does
not have to be logical or valid, and may appear to be unreasonable. Anger can be
superficial or go as far as being angry with God (or your particular higher power). One
should remember that this anger should not be denied, it should be acknowledged, given a
voice, and worked through. No one should be told that their anger will be offensive toward
their God, because He will be angry back. God is all powerful, loving, and compassionate -
therefore will understand their anger. A friend once asked me, "Don't you think that God is
big enough to handle your puny little anger?" Of course He is, so don't be worried about
venting it with him or toward him - He can handle it.
Bargaining - We tend to bargain for the person's life, to have the pain taken away, to even
join our deceased loved one. Bargaining an be an escape from the pain of the loss, or a
distraction from the sad reality of the loss. These are healthy ways of coping with the
overwhelming emotions and pain of the loss. We also get wrapped up in the "What if...," or
"If only..." games at this stage - piling unnecessary guilt upon ourselves. This is not healthy,
however, it needs to be worked through, not shoved aside.
Depression - most people equate depression with a need for medication, however,
depression in association with death and dying is a healthy response to the overwhelming
sadness that is being experienced by those left behind. This depression comes and goes,
changes with each stage the person is in, and usually clears on its own. There are times
when medication is needed for the depression a grieving person develops, but that is more
of an exception than a rule.
Acceptance - this is not to be confused with being "alright" or "okay" with what has
happened. Most people do not ever feel okay with their loss. Acceptance means that we
are accepting the reality of the loss and that the loved one is not coming back, we are
accepting the new reality of our life without the loved one - but that does not mean we like
it. And that is okay!