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Learn About the Five Stages of Greif

When facing the profound challenge of a terminal illness or end-of-life situation, grief is a natural part of the healing process. The “five stages of grief” model serves as a framework to recognize and validate your experiences with loss. The concept originally intended to describe what individuals go through when coming to terms with their own mortality. Over time, however, the framework has been adapted to encompass the general bereavement process. Learn more about each stage of grief as you or someone you love undergoes the emotional journey that often accompanies a significant loss.

Who Developed the Five Stages of Grief?

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, a Swiss-American psychiatrist, introduced the five stages of grief in her 1969 book On Death and Dying. Her work was pioneering at a time when the topic of death was relatively taboo, and it opened up helpful conversations about personal and collective experiences of grief.

Do the Five Stages Always Occur in Order?

It is a common misconception that the stages of grief occur sequentially or that everyone experiences each stage. In reality, grief is highly individualistic and non-linear. People may go through the stages in different orders, revisit some multiple times, or skip others altogether.

What are the Five Stages of Grief?

Kübler-Ross named the five stages of grief as follows:

Five stages of Grief by Agape Hospice

Denial

In the denial stage of grief, it’s common to feel numb or in disbelief that the loss has occurred. You might learn that you have a terminal illness or a family member has died in a car accident. Perhaps you believe the news is fabricated or cling to the hope that the person delivering the message is mistaken. This stage is a temporary defense mechanism that buffers the immediate shock of the loss.

Anger

Anger may manifest when you recognize that denial is no longer an option. This necessary stage helps you process the reality of your loss. Thoughts like “Why me?” and “Life isn’t fair” are common during the anger stage. It’s important to feel and acknowledge these emotions, even when they make you uncomfortable.

Bargaining

During the bargaining stage of grief, it’s common to dwell on what you could have done differently to prevent the loss or minimize your pain. “What if” and “If only” statements may frequently cross your mind as you go over past actions and imagine alternate scenarios.

Depression

As the reality of the situation sets in, feelings of emptiness and despair may wash over you. This stage is often quiet and reflective compared to the anger and bargaining stages. You may not want to be around others or even experience suicidal thoughts.

Acceptance

Acceptance does not mean being okay with the loss but rather acknowledging the reality of it and learning to live with it. It is a time of adjustment and reconfiguring your life. During the acceptance stage of grief, you may lift from the fog of depression and start engaging socially again.

Symptoms of Grief

Grieving is a deeply personal process, but it comes with a range of common symptoms that manifest emotionally and physically. Some of the most common symptoms of grief include:

  • Feeling detached from daily activities and relationships
  • Persistent feelings of deep sorrow and emptiness
  • Irritability or anger toward people or situations
  • Guilt about things said or not said, done or not done
  • Worrying about the future
  • Fear of living with this new norm
  • Physical aches and pains
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Fatigue
  • Changes in appetite

Treatments for Grief

Dealing with grief can feel overwhelming, but effective treatments are available to help you cope and gradually heal. Here are some recommended approaches:

  • Talk it out: Have conversations with friends, family, or a grief counselor to express your feelings.
  • Join a support group: Commiserating with others who have experienced similar loss provides consolation and helps you feel understood.
  • Follow your regular schedule: Keep up your daily routine as much as possible to bring structure and normalcy to your life.
  • Get counseling: Seek help from a professional psychologist or therapist who specializes in bereavement.
  • Be physically active: Incorporating exercise into your routine helps manage stress and boosts your mood.

Contact Us to Learn More

At Agape Hospice NW, we know that everyone’s grief journey is unique. As a locally owned hospice provider in Portland, OR, our compassionate, attentive team delivers quality care defined by excellent communication and responsiveness. We are here to support you through a loved one’s terminal illness or end-of-life situation with compassion-based services like bereavement, advanced care planning, social services, and pastoral care. If you need assistance or guidance through the stages of grief and loss, please contact us at 503-628-9595. We’ll help you arrange the hospice care and support services you deserve.