Understanding the Grief Process: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance

image: Atilla Kefeli

image: Atilla Kefeli

Grief due to loss of a loved one in generally passes through its various stages including denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. But the same grief process can also take place due to a loss of material wealth, things with great emotional attachment, status, etc.

While some grieving people pass through all stages, others could be stuck in any one or two stages (like anger) for a longer time. Truth is, the sooner one moves to the next stage, the faster one can move ahead with normal life.

According to the Kübler-Ross model of grief, the grief process usually starts with denial and isolation, with this becoming a sort of buffer or defense against accepting the reality. After denial carries one through the first wave of grief, most people turn to anger. From doctors, objects, one to even the one who passed away, overwhelming feelings and emotions tend to take the form of anger as a way of dealing with loss. People in this stage need to be left alone, rather than be judged.

The next stage is bargaining. While “I promise to spend more time with my family” may not work when dealing with loss involving death, smaller grief like separation, etc. might still find some comfort in bargaining, with God or anyone else. As reality and understanding sets in, people move on to the depression stage. Sadness, regret, fear and uncertainty rule this stage as one starts accepting what has actually happened. For later emotional stability, it’s important that every person pass through this stage of grief.

The last stage of acceptance may take a long time in coming, when one is able to look at the loss objectively and without attachment. This is when you actually start preparing to move on.

The stages of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance may not come in the same order, and as already mentioned, are not necessarily restricted to grief over bereavement only. Pretty often people will be angry or depressed at factors other than death and loss. Missed job opportunities, a failed love affair, unfulfilled ambitions and lack of financial stability are just some of the few things which can make a person angry or depressed. When someone displays such emotions without having any obvious loss to relate to, it’s important to delve deeper into unresolved issues from the past. Situations which one thinks they’ve moved on from can still be plaything in their sub-conscience, leading to feelings of anger and depression. Getting to the root of the emotion is of utmost importance here.

Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance are nature’s way of helping one deal with grief and get some closure. It’s important to move on. Staying stuck in anger and depression can be harmful for the person, as well as those around them.

Time is a healer and you should remind yourself – everything is temporary – people, things, all life, revolves around creation and extinction. Those who wronged you suffer themselves. A loss of material things is not a loss of You, life goes on. Neither anger nor depression will bring back what you long for. A good mantra is “this too shall pass.” Pick up the pieces and distract yourself with service for others, this is the best vitamin a doctor can prescribe.

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