Stages of grief and bargaining: With Q&As

The stages of grief describe a process that many people experience following the death of a loved one or a change in personal circumstances. We often think of loss when we talk about grief, but this isn’t always the case.

It’s possible to grieve following the loss of a job, a change in your financial situation, or a dramatic change in your life, such as moving to a different country. Swiss psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross first proposed the stages of grief in her book On Death and Dying, first published in 1969.

Kübler-Ross identified five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. These stages are not necessarily experienced in this order, and they don’t always happen consecutively. It’s also possible to move back and forth between the different stages. It’s important to remember that everyone experiences grief differently, and there is no “right” or “wrong” way to grieve. 

The first stage of grief is denial. This is a natural defence mechanism that helps to protect us from the raw emotions experienced right after a death or similar loss. 

After this, we find anger. When things don’t go as we would like, it’s common to feel angry, and loss is no different.

After anger, we find bargaining. This is when we try to make deals with God or the universe in order to avoid the pain of loss. For example, we might say, “I’ll never smoke again if you just bring my loved one back.”

The fourth stage of grief is depression. This is a natural response to loss and can involve feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and despair. It’s important to remember that this is a normal part of the grieving process and not something that should be ignored.

Finally, we reach acceptance. This doesn’t mean that we are happy about the loss, but rather that we have come to terms with it and are able to move on with our lives.

When describing the grieving process, many people say that their grief does not get smaller as time goes by. Instead, they find that they are able to “grow” around their grief. They still feel it the same way, but they are stronger and better equipped to deal with it.

This is a helpful analogy for those who are struggling with grief. Often, individuals will resist moving forward because they fear letting go. They think that letting go means that they no longer care for that person. In reality, reaching the acceptance stage of grief is about acknowledging the profound impact this person had on your life. 

Is grief the same as loss?

Is grief the same as loss?

No, grief is not the same as loss. Grief is a process that people go through following the death of a loved one or some other form of loss, such as the loss of a job or a change in personal circumstances. This process can take many different forms, and each person experiences it differently. While grief may involve feelings of sadness and loss, it’s important to remember that this is normal and should not be ignored.

In contrast, loss refers to the actual event that causes someone to grieve, such as the death of a loved one or another type of significant change in life circumstances. While these two concepts are often linked together, they are actually quite different and should be treated as such.

Are there 5 or 7 stages of grief?

Are there 5 or 7 stages of grief?

There is much debate around the number of stages of grief, with some experts proposing that there are as many as seven and others arguing for a more limited number. Some people believe that shock and testing should be added to the stages of grief, as these are everyday experiences that people go through.

However, regardless of how many stages we identify, it’s important to remember that everyone experiences loss and grief differently. Some people may experience only a few stages, while others go through each stage multiple times. 

It’s also common for individuals to become “trapped” in a stage and feel unable to move forward. This can become incredibly self-destructive, so its important to seek help from professionals when grief becomes too much to handle on your own.

How long does grief take?

There is no simple answer to this question, as grief takes different forms and can be experienced for different lengths of time by different people. For some, grief may only last a few days or weeks before they find relief from the pain. 

If you have been expecting the death, or if you had a complicated relationship with the deceased, you may have already grieved the loss before the death occurred. This can often happen when individuals grieve the loss of an estranged parent. In reality, they have already grieved for this loss, so when the person passes away, they might find that they reach acceptance much faster than expected.

However, for others, the process of grief can take much longer. It’s not uncommon for someone to never fully process the loss and carry the weight of their emotions in unexpected ways. This is common in situations where there is guilt or anger towards the deceased.

What is denial in the five stages of grief?

Denial is often the first stage of grief. It might be preceded by shock, which can leave individuals feeling paralyzed and unable to process what is happening. Denial is a natural defence mechanism in response to the death of someone close. It helps to provide a buffer against the wave of emotions.

This stage can involve feeling shocked, numb, and disbelief. It’s important to remember that this is a normal part of the grieving process and not something that should be ignored. Denial typically doesn’t last for very long, as other emotions will eventually take over. It’s difficult to return to denial once the other stages of grief have set in.

What does the denial stage feel like?

The denial stage of grief can feel like a state of shock. You might be numb and unable to process what has happened. During this stage, you might also experience disbelief and confusion. Waking up in the morning might be very difficult, as you will be confronted with the realization of what is happening all over again. It’s important to remember that this is a completely normal stage in the grieving process, and it will not last forever.

How long is the denial stage?

How long is the denial stage?

There is no set length for the denial stage of grief. It can last anywhere from a few hours to several weeks or months, depending on the person and how they are coping with the loss. Typically, people will experience this stage immediately after the death occurs, and it may wax and wane as they move through other stages of grief. It’s less common to return to the denial stage, so once an individual has moved past this, they are less likely to experience feelings of denial again.

What stage of grieving is anger?

The anger stage of grief is one of the most difficult to navigate. This stage can involve intense feelings of bitterness and resentment directed at others, as well as towards the deceased. You might experience a heightened sense of irritability or anger in response to things that don’t normally bother you. It’s important to remember that this type of anger is not based on logic or rationality.

Anger during the grieving process is a natural response to loss, but it’s important to be aware of how you express this anger. It can be easy to slip into hurtful behaviour and say things that you don’t mean when you’re feeling angry. People close to you will know that your anger stems from grief, but others might not be aware of this.

What does anger mean in grief?

Anger is a natural and normal response to loss. It is often one of the first stages of grief that people experience. Anger can manifest itself in different ways, including feeling irritable, frustrated, or even enraged. Sometimes people’s anger is directed at others, while other times, it is directed inward. It can also be directed at the deceased, particularly if there is any guilt or resentment involved.

What does anger look like in grief?

There is no one “right” way to experience anger in grief. Some people may feel irritable or frustrated all the time, while others may become enraged and exhibit behaviour that seems out of control. Some people’s anger may manifest itself as feeling like they are being punished for something they did wrong, or it can be directed at oneself.

What is the bargaining stage of grief?

What is the bargaining stage of grief?

The bargaining stage of grief is a transitional phase that occurs as people move from denial and anger to acceptance. It is characterized by an attempt to make deals or bargains with a higher power in an attempt to change the outcome of the loss. For example, someone who has lost a loved one may try bargaining with God, asking for their loved one to be returned to them.

Even those who do not believe in a higher power may find that they begin to question their faith. They may even feel that their lack of faith is what caused them to be subject to such considerable pain. Bargaining can be frustrating to deal with, as it offers false hope that things could be different.

What is an example of bargaining in grief?

One example of bargaining in grief can be seen in people who pray for their deceased loved ones to come back to them. They may ask God to restore things to the way they were or even make a deal with him that if certain conditions are met, their loved ones will be returned. Some people may even bargain with themselves, promising that if they make certain changes, they will be able to turn back time and reverse the event.

What is depression in the five stages of grief?

Depression is another common emotional response to grief and loss. It can involve feelings of sadness, hopelessness, emptiness, or numbness. Depression is often characterized by a lack of motivation or interest in things that were once enjoyable. Some people may even experience changes in appetite and sleep patterns as they grieve their loss.

Depression is the most common stage of grief and one that many people feel “trapped”. It can be difficult to see a way out of the pain and sadness that accompanies this stage. However, it is important to remember that depression is a natural part of the grieving process and will eventually give way to acceptance.

How long does depression last in grief?

There is no right answer to this question, as everyone’s experience of grief will be different. One general guideline is that depression tends to last between six months and one year after a loss.

However, it can vary from person to person, depending on factors such as the nature of their relationship with the deceased or how much support they have been able to access. Talking about your feelings with a professional can help you to move through this stage quicker, but only if you are willing to move forward. Some people fear moving forward as they don’t want to let go.

What is the acceptance stage in grief?

The acceptance stage of grief is the final stage in the process. It is characterized by a sense of peace and resolution. This does not mean that the pain of the loss is gone, but rather that people have come to terms with what has happened and are able to move on with their lives.

It is important to note that acceptance does not always make things feel “better”. It’s not always a resolution to the sadness, but it can make it possible for a person to move forward with their life.

Reaching this stage might require professional intervention. A therapist or counsellor can help you work through your emotions in a safe and supportive environment. With time, patience, and self-compassion, you can find acceptance and move on from the pain of your loss.

What is the acceptance stage in grief?

What are the signs of acceptance?

There is no definitive sign that a person has reached the acceptance stage of grief. Each person will have different experiences and emotions as they go through this process. However, certain signs can indicate that you are approaching or have reached this crucial stage in your healing process:

  • You may become more patient with yourself and others as you deal with your loss.
  • You may find that you no longer want to avoid the subject of your loss. Instead, you might start talking openly and honestly about it.
  • You might feel a sense of peace around the memories of your loved one and feel less conflicted or upset by them.

How long does it take to reach acceptance in grief?

There is no one answer to this question. Just as every person experiences grief differently, so too will everyone have a unique timeline for reaching the acceptance stage. For some, it may take weeks or months, while others might take years. The important thing is to be patient with yourself and allow yourself the time you need to heal.

It’s important to remember that the stages of grief are often not linear. Individuals may find they go around in circles, finding some sense of acceptance before returning to anger, denial or depression. Every step forward is a step in the right direction, and it’s important to give yourself time to process your feelings. There is no timeline you need to follow, but if you find you aren’t moving forward and are concerned about your progression, always seek professional help.

Closing thoughts on grief

Learning about the stages of grief is not only helpful for those experiencing loss, it’s also helpful for those trying to support them. It can be difficult to watch a loved one suffer and knowing that there is a process of healing can be reassuring.

The stages of grief provide a framework for understanding the emotions we experience after loss. However, it’s important to remember that everyone is different and will move through these stages at their own pace. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. However, grieving can become unhealthy, so it's important to know the signs of self-destructive behaviour. 

If you find that you are struggling to cope, seeking professional help is always a good idea. Self-destructive behaviour can include:

  • Avoiding your feelings by engaging in risky behaviours like substance abuse or excessive spending.
  • Turning to self-harm or suicidal thoughts as a way of dealing with pain.
  • Isolating yourself from friends, family, and support networks.

If you find that you are engaging in any of these habits, it is important to seek help from those around you. Likewise, if you know someone who is struggling with grief, pay close attention to their behaviour and be ready to act if things get out of control.