Stages of Bereavement

The stages of bereavement help us to get through a trying time. These stages are the name given to the emotional reactions one goes through after a great loss.

All of the stages may not appear in the order given. And some stages will be variations of the ones presented here.

As difficult as this is to go through, it is a part of the healing process.

Grief never ends, but it changes. It is a passage, not a place to stay.The sence of loss must give way, if we are to value the life that was lived.

Author Unknown


Evening sun reflecting on the water

Evening sun reflecting on the water

5 Stages of Grief

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, in her book, "On Death and Dying," has identified five stages of the greiving process. These stages are recognized to be universal to losing a loved one, as well as to losing a job or other major life change.

The Five Stages of Bereavement are:


One of the first ways we react to loss is denial. The thought, "How could this happen to me?" and "This isn't really happening," can prevail.

Denying a loss in our lives, is an unconscious event. We do not always realize we are doing it. It is a protective measure, to insulate us from what is happening.

After my son died, I simply could not believe it was my son who was gone. "How could that happen to this family?" I thought. It was quite awhile before I knew that my son would not come through the door again.


Getting angry about something you have no control over, is a very difficult stage.

Anger towards the events that led to your loss, to your faith and to those closest to you are common.

At times, anger that has no place to be expressed, will stay with someone. It can show up at a later time when least expected. It is best to deal with anger, than to let it grow.

Keeping a journal,that allows you to see the place you are in, through your writting, can be very helpful. It is one way to work through anger.

Grief counseling gets you in touch with other people that are going through a similiar loss.


After a loss, most people try to bargain in some way. They are trying to regain what they have lost.

This stage of bereavement can be difficult to understand.

"If you get well, I will never yell at you again," is an example of bargaining. It is to have hope that things will be how they used to be.

Part of the healing process, is to understand there is no bargaining with death. Everything has now changed.


Depression, or intense sadness following a significant loss, is one of the stages of bereavement that most everyone goes through.

Depression can be mild, in that you go about your day to day activities, but feel that something is not quite right. Or it can contain fear and uncertainty and a lounging for what was.

During the stage of depression, there is a feeling of hopelessness, such as "Why go on?" It may appear that things will never get better.

During my 'down time', or 'time of great sadness', I did not realize how sad I really was until I started to come out of it. The first time I smiled, or forgot to be sad, was filled with feelings of guilt. I did not think I was allowed to feel better. After all, my son was gone.

As difficult as depression is, it needs to be worked through. Professional help may be needed, if there appears to be a threat to yourself, or to others.


This is when we realize that everything that we have gone through will not bring back that which we have lost. We begin to accept the way things are now and that loss is a part of life.

Acceptance is the uneasy peace that follows the stages of denial, anger, bargaining and depression. It is acceptance with reluctance.

It is to know that the present is different than the past. It is to know that we can still find a ray of light, after the dark. That we can allow ourselves to find happiness in the small things.

It should be noted, that according to Kubler-Ross, the stages of bereavement do not always follow in a linear fashion. They can present themselves in a different order and can jump back and forth, often within a short period of time.

Should you find that you are in a prolonged state of depression or unease, and can see very little light coming through, perhaps you may benefit from the services of a grief counselor.

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