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Stages of Grief

Stages of Grief

What are these stages of grief? First, let us put grief in perspective. It is a very personal and individual experience. Personality, coping mechanisms and the relationship one has to the decedent are only a few key elements that will determine the depth of one’s experience with grief.

Now let’s explore the stages of grief and what they mean. They are often referred to as the 5 Stages of Grief and are defined as:

Denial: This can’t be happening.

Anger: Why did this happen? Who is to blame?

Bargaining: Make this not happen and I will…

Depression: I can’t bear this; I’m too sad to do anything.

Acceptance: I acknowledge that this has happened, and I cannot change it.

Although these stages are presented in a neat and concise format, there is nothing neat or concise when it comes to one’s personal journey with grief. Even Elisabeth Kubler-Ross herself, a psychiatrist who first discussed the theory, said that the stages of grief were not meant to be packaged so neatly.

These stages have been widely accepted by medical and mental health professionals.

However, it is important to note that Kubler-Ross’ theory was specific to those facing end of life and imminent death.

In recent years, many have begun to challenge this theory and argue that it has no application to those bereaved. In addition, there is argument that the “stages” were never proven as a fact. They were merely a hypothetical concept developed with personal bias.

A study performed by Yale School of Medicine suggest a different point of view. Although the data did lend support to the stages of grief, they placed different emphasis on the order, relabeled them to more accurately reflect the research. In addition, they substitute the word “stages” with the word “indicators” suggesting that “stages” implies a period of time, leaving one waiting for a period of time to end.

The stages of grief, now termed “grief indicators” are:


Disbelief about the death


Depressive mood


The research shows that disbelief was heightened immediately following the death. Whereas, yearning, anger and depression heightened four to six months following the death and acceptance after six months.

Regardless of theories, studies or research, we do want to emphasize there is no absolute. And while “yearning” is said to peak between 4-6 months post-death, we believe that it’s normal to have moments of intense grief as triggers remind us of our loved one despite the number of years passed.

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