The 7 Stages of Grief and Loss Explained

Everyone who experiences a loss will go through the seven stages of grief. To learn more about each stage, keep reading.

Sara Kelly Sara Kelly
ARTICLE3 MIN READ
The 7 Stages of Grief and Loss Explained

Almost everyone at some point in their life will experience grief and loss. This journey looks different for everyone and can vary depending on the type of loss you experience. However, most people experience the same stages of grief.

In 1969, the Swiss-American psychiatrist Elizabeth Kübler-Ross first explained that you could divide grief into five stages in her book On Death and Dying. Her conclusion on grief came from years of working with terminally ill individuals and is known as the Kübler-Ross model.

The model has received criticism over the years because people mistakenly believed that everyone went through this specific order of grief. However, Kübler-Ross has since made it known that these stages are not linear, and some people may not experience any of them.

Though the five stages of grief may be the most widely known, there’s now enough evidence to create other versions, such as the seven stages of grief and loss. These seven stages of grief reflect the process for all types of loss.

The seven stages of grief

1. Shock and denial

Typically, emotions are most profound because the loss is still so new. And although the loss is real, it’s common to experience feelings of shock or denial. This first stage can present itself in physical symptoms such as nausea, difficulty sleeping and numbness. Some might even describe feeling detached from reality.

2. Pain and guilt

The second stage of grief is pain and guilt. The loss will feel more real and challenging to handle, and you might even feel guilty about whether or not you could have done something to prevent it. Although these feelings are overwhelming, they are a natural response to loss and should be acknowledged as part of your healing process.

3. Anger and bargaining

It’s not uncommon to experience feelings of anger or frustration when grieving. For example, if you lost a job or experienced a relationship breakdown, you might feel anger towards a boss or an ex-partner. It’s also common for people to feel anger toward the deceased for leaving them. Bargaining refers to when you start to look at the upside of the situation. For example, you might realise you were actually miserable in the job you lost and start to shift out of anger.

4. Depression, reflection and loneliness

You generally begin to reflect upon your loss and its effect on your life during this stage. Usually, the loss feels a lot more real, and you may notice yourself withdrawing from dealing with these feelings. It can be helpful to try to surround yourself with family and friends who can support you during this stage. You might also consider grief counselling or bereavement services in your area.

5. The upward turn

The upward turn stage is when you finally start feeling like life can be better again. This stage is gradual, and you might notice it over days, weeks or months. It’s here where you can start to find good in things around you. You might notice that you feel less pain, guilt, or depression at this stage. You might even experience feelings of acceptance and hope.

6. Reconstruction stages

During the reconstruction stage, you start to work through the grief and the aftermath of the loss. For example, someone who lost a spouse might now start to think about making new goals for the future. This stage is a crucial part of the grieving process because you start to feel like you’re back in control of your life, including your relationships, job and day to day tasks.

7. Acceptance

The final stage of the grieving process is acceptance. During this stage, you’re comfortable acknowledging the loss and feel happy about moving forward into your new life. Some signs that you’re in the acceptance stage include feeling more comfortable talking about the loss, reflecting more on good times than the loss itself and feeling hopeful about the future.

Grief doesn’t have a timeline

With any loss, you don’t need to just get over it and move on. There are seven stages of grief and loss that each person will experience differently. The best thing you can do is allow yourself to go through the stages and surround yourself with support.

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