The 5 Stages Of Grief — Plus 6 We Don't Realize Are Part Of The Grieving Process

Elizabeth Kübler-Ross said there are 5 stages of grief, but some think there are 7 — or more...

woman grieving Getty

The human experience of loss is commonly shared; no matter who you are or what status you have in the world, you will need to go through a grieving process before you can heal.

In her 1969 book "On Death and Dying", Swiss-American psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross identified five stages of grief that follow a major loss or death of a loved one.

The five stages identified by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross are:

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance

It's important to note that you won't necessarily experience all five stages, you may not experience them in this order, and you may need to go through some stages more than once. We are all unique individuals, and there is no "normal" or "right" way to grieve.


Why do we go through each of the five stages of grief?

Stage 1: Denial

The pain we feel after a great loss can at times feel like too much to bear. We enter the stage of denial as a way to protect ourselves — if the pain isn't there, we won't feel it, right?


Know that there is no reason to feel guilty for these moments of denial. Going momentarily numb gives your system a needed rest as you gain the strength to continue your way through the mourning process.

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2. Anger

Momentary anger is your mind's unconscious way of allowing you feel a sense of control and strength in the midst of what otherwise feels like crippling weakness. Your anger gives you a sense of connection, purpose and power when you are feeling otherwise lost at sea. Allow yourself to feel that rage and it will, in time, dissipate.

3. Bargaining

After a loss, how could anyone not want to do whatever they can in order to get things back as they were. And after all, we grow up being told we can make anything happen if we want to badly enough. It's only natural to search our weary brains for ideas of ways we could make things right, even when we do know that doing so is impossible.


4. Depression

Because we can't bargain our loved ones back from death, we eventual fall into a state of deep sadness. We may feel quiet, empty, and numb. The fog of depression envelops us so tightly we often tend to think it will never pass.

Know that like all of the other stages of grief, and all of our emotions in general, everything we feel is temporary. This will pass.

5. Acceptance

Acceptance does not necessarily mean you no longer feel any pain or sadness. It doesn't mean you are OK with your loss. What it means is that you've accepted the reality of your loss as your new normal, and you know your life must go on in new ways that account and adjust for that fact.

This brief list of the classic stages of grief makes it relatively simple for anyone to understand the dynamics of grief, whether it be their own or somebody else’s. Such simplicity can be helpful when someone is struggling with a wide range of emotional states they don’t have the energy to process, let alone explain to others asking what's going on.


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But it’s helpful to have a simple framework to explain the process of mourning, human beings and our emotions are more complex than a basic checklist like this can fully capture. The grief any one of us feels in any moment along the way to healing is likely to be accompanied by other stages Kübler-Ross didn't mention.

Another model some experts feel more accurately explains the grieving process includes seven stages of grief.

The seven stages of grief include:

  1. Shock or disbelief: the numbness you feel when you first learn of your loss.
  2. Denial: as above.
  3. Pain and guilt. you may feel that there were things you should have done differently and won't be able to do now.
  4. Anger: as above
  5. Bargaining: as above
  6. Depression: as above.
  7. Acceptance: as above.

During a time of loss, it’s important to honor your individual experience and be compassionate to yourself. As you grieve, it's normal — and likely — that you’ll experience even more emotional states than either of these theories cover.


RELATED: How Much Grieving Is Too Much? (Plus, How To Heal & Move On In Your Own Time)

The additional stages of grief listed below are just six of many more emotional experiences people who are grieving go through, even if they don't often talk about them as often.

Six Additional Stages of Grief and Grieving

1. Confusion

In the classic stages of grief, anger, and depression can cause emotional flooding, which circumvents the thinking ability of the brain. Confusion is one of the symptoms of this, and you might experience anything from forgetting where you put your keys to the inability to make what are usually simple decisions, like deciding what to have for dinner.


On a bigger scale, existential confusion occurs when you have no clue how to adapt to living without the person or thing you just lost.

2. Fear

This is the counterpart of the classic grief stage of anger. More often than we realize, fear precedes then becomes expressed as anger. We grieve not only what has been lost but we fear the loss of the familiar and the uncertainty of what life will be like from here on out.

3. Illness

Our physical bodies do not exist apart from our emotions, so sustained emotional states can manifest as bodily symptoms. For instance, the classic grief stage of depression is often accompanied by fatigue.

Additionally, you might find yourself more susceptible to catching a cold or the flu, plus your appetite might disappear for a while. The key is to be extra aware of your body’s need for loving self-care and attend to it.


4. Seclusion

This is related to the classic grief stages of denial and isolation and of depression. As such, seclusion might be regarded as a symptom of these stages. It manifests as a complete withdrawal from being in the company of others. It’s also an unfortunate byproduct of our disconnected society, in which a person might feel she is being a burden by calling on someone for help.

If you know of someone going through grief, one of the most compassionate things you can do is call to check in and offer your presence in a non-pushy way. At the very least, the person will find comfort in knowing somebody is available even if she doesn’t take you up on the offer.

5. Seeking replacement


In the classic grief stage of bargaining, a person might wonder what she could have done differently to mitigate the pain of a loss or even to have prevented a loss altogether. Seeking replacement goes further than bargaining, whereby a person attains something in an attempt to fill the hole of a loss. Buying a new car or going on an elaborate vacation immediately after a loss are examples.

Seeking replacement also occurs when someone loses a beloved pet then adopts a new pet the very next day. Of course, life goes on so this behavior is understandable. However, to seek a replacement in short order denies feeling one’s grief fully, and those feelings are likely to come flowing back with great force even years later.

If you experience a powerful tendency to seek replacement quickly in the wake of a loss, slow down to ride the wave of your emotion. It might feel unbearable but it will subside in time.


6. Doubt

When someone experiences a profound loss, everything she was ever sure of feels like it’s been shattered to pieces. For the most confident among us, we come to doubt our fortitude. For the most spiritual of us, we doubt our faith.

The paradox — and the comfort — is that enduring the gut-wrenching of doubt builds even greater fortitude and faith to take us through the darkest depths of our grief.

If you need help during this time, please don't hesitate to reach out. There are trained professionals and volunteers available to support you.

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Stephen Dynako is a courage builder and the author of "The Self Aware Lover." Visit his website for more information.