The 5 stages of grief were popularized by Swiss-American psychiatrist Elizabeth Kubler-Ross in 1969, a notion that was accepted as law by society. Later on, 2 new stages of grief were added in order to help people get a better understanding of the emotions that they were going through, which weren’t mentioned in the early 5 stages. So…What are they? But before we get into details, please do understand that different people grieve differently and it’s entirely possible to skip a stage or two of grief and move on to the next.
7 Stages of Grief
Stage 1: Shock
The news which has left you devastated needs to be processed by your mind and body, both. If it is something you saw coming, like a loved one dying of a medical complication they had for months, then the shock may not be as intense as your friend dying suddenly in an accident the previous day. Such news is always received as a complete shock and processing this information can take you hours, days or even weeks.
Stage 2: Denial
As the title suggests, people often refuse to accept the death of a loved one. For example, if someone was lost in war and declared dead, loved ones would still keep on hoping that they are well and alive in a place where there is no way to communicate. People go to extraordinary lengths to build elaborate scenarios in their heads to deny a loved one’s death, because by pushing their feelings and believing someone dear to them to be alive is way easier than to accept the reality that they are gone forever.
Stage 3: Anger and Bargaining
After you’ve passed the denial stage and accepted that you’ve lost someone close to you, the next in line to the 7 stages of grief is the emotion – anger. You might be angry at yourself. For example, if your friend died in an accident, you would find it impossible to forgive yourself if she asked you for a ride but you refused because you feeling too lazy to drop her off. You might also be angry at your friend for leaving you alone in this world with all those promises remaining unfulfilled.
You might be angry at God for taking away the one person that meant the most to you, or you may even be angry at yourself for surviving the accident while your friend was the one who died. Obviously, rationally speaking, anger makes no sense in such a situation, but how can humans think rationally when grieving, right?
Stage 4: Guilt
The reasons for feeling guilty are the same as feeling anger. You might feel survivor’s guilt for living while your friend died in an accident, guilt for not dropping her off which would have otherwise saved her life, guilt for failing them in some way or the other, guilt for fighting with them or telling them that you hate them right before they died….. the reasons can be endless. It’s actually amazing how many ways we can find to make ourselves guilty of crimes we’ve never committed.
Stage 5: Acceptance
So after experiencing the 4 of 7 stages of grief, you finally face reality – that the one you care is gone forever and that nothing you ever do or say will bring them back. Rationally speaking, that is a good thing because now you’ve begun thinking realistically. Please note that acceptance does not in any way mean you’re back to being your normal happy self. No. It’s simply the beginning of your emotional journey, where you’ve come to accept reality; of course, you’ll go back and forth with your emotions, feeling sad, overwhelmed, frustrated, guilty, angry….. and that’s okay.
Stage 6: Sadness
Obviously, you’re sad from start to finish during your grieving period, but this is the one stage where you’re the saddest. You might feel traces of anger or guilt, but your primary emotion is overwhelming sadness. During this stage, you will realize the true magnitude of your loss. It will sadden you, make you feel completely empty on the inside and even lead you into depression for which you immediately need to get professionals involved. You will look at old photos and videos, texts and comments, or laugh and cry at the same time. It will be a bitter sweet phase for you.
Stage 7: The upward turn
The last of the 7 stages of grief is where you finally resolve to move on with your life. Does it mean that you’ve forgotten your loved one, erased them completely from your memory and moved ahead with your life? Of course not. What it does mean is that now you’re mentally and emotionally at peace with their passing.
You've realized what happened, happened. There is nothing that you could have done to change things. This clarity helps you to enjoy your life a little more than when you were grieving. You start living your life as normally as you can, and with the passage of time you realize things only become easier. Sure, you may cry from time to time for your loved one, but that’s natural and very healthy to do. For many people, the death might have life altering consequences, like say, working for a suicide helpline to prevent others from doing what your loved one did.