Grieving Process-5 steps of the grieving process


Grieving is one of the universal human phenomena that has existed since the existence of the world. After a loss comes the grieving process which takes different durations across individuals. It can manifest itself through rage, depression, or avoidance. The reactions to loss are very personalized meaning that different people respond differently to a loss (Howarth, 2011). In addition, people use different ways to grief. While some might result to heavy drinking, others respond by going to religious places to pray. Managing the grief process is an individual’s unique process. There are five stages in the grieving process, which includes denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. However, the process does not follow any definite order, not everyone passes through all the steps, and an individual can switch back and forth between the stages.

A loss is one of the major emotional experiences, which are distressing. However, everybody deals with a loss at some point in life. Despite the difficulty that comes with a loss, most people face the grieving process normally by enduring a period of anger, sorrow, numbness, and guilt after which such feelings fade away and one accepts the loss and moves on with life (Howarth, 2011). However, there are those who linger much in the anger and sorrow and takes long to accept and move on. It is all dependent on an individual. While some people go through all the stages, some go through as less as one-step. There are those who just accept and move on with life. However, every stage is important in understanding the grieving and managing the grieving process. At some point, someone is undergoing one of the stages.


Denial is considerably the first step of grieving. It helps the griever to endure the loss. At this stage, an individual feels that the world has no meaning and is overwhelmed by emotions. Everything in life at this point makes no sense. This is a period of denial and shock. One cannot accept the fact that a loved one is gone never to come back. One tries to find simple ways to survive every day. This stage is more experienced by close family members and friends who had an emotional attachment with the deceased (Kubler-Ross, 2009). Individuals not close to the deceased may not undergo this stage rather may just accept and move on. In addition, based on time after death and culture, some individual may not experience the denial stage.

Undergoing the denial stage is natural and not a sign of weakness. It helps an individual to cope thus making survival possible. It helps one to speed up the feelings of grief. As Kubler-Ross (2009) puts it, “there is a grace in denial”. It is the way of nature letting individuals experience only what they can manage. With time, one accepts the loss and starts to consider some questions. At this point, an individual is beginning the healing process and can shift to any stage. While some individuals get angry at the world, others start to bargain and other accept and move on. Feelings are not static and change as time moves on, but people respond differently to certain feelings. The way an individual responds to the reality of the loss determines the next stage.


Anger is another stage of grieving which is necessary for the healing process. Even though the anger may feel endless, it is important to own it and truly feel it. Anger has no limits and can extend to family, friends, doctors, and God. Anger occurs once an individual faces the reality of the loss. It ignites the act of blaming others and in sometimes the loss. It is common for individuals to blame themselves for the loss (Buglass, 2010). Blaming oneself causes a false guilt, but it might feel like true guilt. Recriminations and doubts appear after reflecting on the loss, and one starts to question what could have been done to prevent the loss. This only increases the anger after realizing that it is over and nothing can be done.

Underneath the anger is a pain. Pain that a loved one is gone and can never come back. It is natural to feel alone, disserted and not loved but such losses as death are unpreventable, and the society people live in fear anger. However, anger can be an anchor since it is strength. It provides a structure to the vacuum left after the loss. Anger is a bridge and something to hold on to after a loss. It offers one the comfort that there is something after all. It is important to talk and express one’s feelings at this stage (Buglass, 2010). Keeping the anger in can cause serious problems such as depression. Individuals are different, and there are those who are eager to talk to someone about the anger and pain and those who want to keep things to themselves. In the end, the decision or path an individual takes will determine the next stage. Talking about it can lead to acceptance while keeping it to oneself can lead to depression. After all, something irreversible has occurred and owning it is the best solution.


Bargaining is yet another stage in grieving. It takes place within the mind while trying to explain to oneself what could have been done differently. This stage is characterized by an attempt to confer with a higher power or something that has control over the loss like God. Individuals make promises to God in return for things to go back as they used to be before the loss. At this stage, one focuses on what could have been done to prevent the loss (Doka, 2014). Thinking about how life could have turned out without the loss is normal, but it just increases the pain and anger of not preventing the loss.

The bargaining process should not be stopped since it is a significant step in the grieving process. It may be painful to watch someone experience the bargaining stage, but respecting the process is essential to ensure the person recovers and accepts the change. If disrupted, one can move back to being in denial and angry which will just delay the healing process. Some individuals never pass through the bargaining stage (Doka, 2014). Not everyone believes in a higher power being in control. In such a case, an individual has no one to bargain with. Such a person may however feel angry for failure to prevent the loss.


With bargaining complete, the attention turns to what is happening in the present. The feeling of emptiness occurs, and grief goes deeper to the lives of the affected individuals. This is the depression stage. It is characterized by sadness, lack of appetite and trouble sleeping. It is significant to understand that this state is not a mental disorder but just a response to loss. An individual in the depression stage withdraw from life and is left in a fog of sadness. Too often, depression is seen as unnatural and something one can just snap out of. However, death is a depressing situation and responding by being depressed is normal and appropriate (Tanimukai, 2015). The stage should not be interfered with since it is part of healing and recovering. However, this kind of depression can sometimes prolong and turn to a mental problem in which case it is advisable to look for help.

Being depressed after losing a loved one is natural and allowed. The feeling of sadness and helplessness is part of the grieving process. However, if the depression prolongs, it can turn to a problem. Some individuals take too long to recover from a loss and end up acquiring a mental problem (Tanimukai, 2015). The brain fails to process the loss due to their failure to accept and move on. Some other individuals process the loss very fast and do not feel depressed. Some other individuals move from depression to anger and bargaining at the same time.


Acceptance is the last stage of grieving. No matter the order in which an individual passes the stages, the final stage will have to be acceptance. Once an individual accepts the loss and processes it, then the healing process is almost finished. Acceptance does not mean that one is okay with the loss rather it means that the individual has accepted the loss and is ready to move on (Miller, 2015). Humans are never okay with a loss but learn to live with it. Every individual grieving has to undergo this stage since it is the answer to being complete again. After true acceptance, one can hardly move back to the other stages. Acceptance gives one relief from the sadness and torment.

This is the final stage in the healing process. Instead of ignoring the feelings of sadness, one accepts them and gets ready to evolve, to make new connections and new relationships. After acceptance, an individual can be termed as fully healed from grief (Miller, 2015). Though every individual responds differently to grief, every griever has to undergo this stage. Without undergoing this stage, a griever cannot be healed. Some individuals do not pass through the other stages rather they jump directly to acceptance and healing.


Grieving is natural and everyone experiences it at some point in life. The different stages denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance are part of the recovering process. It is only after accepting and owning the loss that one can be able to move on. However, acceptance does not signify that an individual is okay with the loss rather it means an individual has accepted the reality of the loss. People respond differently to grievance but all finish with acceptance. No matter the order of the stages, the final stage has to be acceptance. In addition, people grieve for varying periods. Some take years while some take days but all end up with acceptance. Except for acceptance, which is the last stage, other stages have no definite order. In addition, different people respond differently and undergo different stages when grieving. However, the order does not matter provides one accepts the loss at the end of the grieving period.
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