Life after a Loss: The 5 Stages of Grief

Things, people, substances, friends, family members, trust, relationships: All of these can be great, and all of these can be lost. Once something is lost, the grieving process begins. It’s inevitable. It can feel unbearable. It can be unwanted. It can also be healthy, healing, and heart-mending.

Elizabeth Kübler-Ross first developed the 5 Stages of Grief model, and if you’ve ever grieved a loss, then you may remember going through these stages naturally.

  1. Denial “I just can’t believe this is real.” This first stage may feel like a dream. It’s experienced by even the most intellectual beings. During this time, it’s important to talk it out when you can. Denial can bring a host of negative emotions if not addressed.
  2. Anger “This is so unfair. I hate this.” The second stage is just as natural as the first stage. It’s OKAY to be angry. Talk through these feelings with someone who can provide support. Expressing your feelings during this stage helps you to process, which is so important.
  3. Bargaining (This stage can actually begin before the loss occurs.) “I would do anything for more time.” You may begin saying things like this when you feel that time is running out. “It’s okay because I’ll see them again.” You may say this to try to not deal with the loss, bargaining with grief. Do not get stuck here. It’s okay to be upset even though you may know that you will see them again.
  4. Depression “I don’t know how to do anything.” You don’t have to be clinically diagnosed to deal with depression, and you don’t have to be admitted into a psych unit to overcome this stage. That being said, this may be the hardest part of grieving. We fight it by trying to not get to this stage and stoping at #3, but it is necessary. Again, talk it out during this stage.
  5. Acceptance “I still don’t like it, but I’m going to be okay.” This stage may not feel as great as it sounds. You may feel like a weight is lifted once you are able accept a life without something or someone. Don’t rush to this stage. More importantly, don’t feel guilty once you are here.

Having recently experienced a tremendous loss in my life, I can accept the 5 stages of grief as truth. Before my loss, I had only studied these stages, hoping that they were true and that people were able heal through them. The quotes above are mine. These are the things I’ve said over the past month, and the last quote was one that I said only a few days ago. Once I realized that “being okay” didn’t mean the same as “liking this,” I was able to accept this life. That doesn’t mean that I won’t have bad days or that I will forget to remember her. It means that I can remember her the way that I choose to remember her. It means that it doesn’t have to hurt every time that I do think of her.

If you are experiencing a loss, first, I want to say, “I’m sorry.” Loss sucks. Period. You don’t have to pretend. Second, I want you to know it’s okay to admit that, before you try to deal with all those gross and horrible feelings. Hang in there.


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