If you or a loved one is grieving, learning more about the grieving process might be beneficial. Here we discuss the 5 Steps of Grief as well as some techniques to assist someone who is grieving following a loss or breakup. It’s vital to remember that the grieving process is complicated and unique to each individual. These steps may not be followed exactly, or other sensations may emerge after you believe you have completed the grieving process. Allowing yourself to grieve in your own way might help you heal after a loss.
How Long do the 5 Steps of Grief Last?
There is no time limit for any of these steps. One person may go through the phases of grief swiftly, such as in a matter of weeks, but another person may take months or even years. It is absolutely acceptable for you to take your time moving through these steps.
When considering the 5 steps of grief, it is vital to remember that everyone grieves differently. So, you may or may not go through or experience each of these steps or stages in order. The steps of the grief process are frequently blurred. We may also transition from one stage to another, and potentially return again before entering a new stage.
How It Feels to Go Through the 5 Steps of Grief
Exploring the 5 steps or stages of grief and loss may assist you in understanding and contextualizing where you are in your personal grief process and how you feel.
Similarly, if you’re worried about or trying to comprehend someone else’s grieving process, keep in mind that there is no one way to go through it. Everyone grieves differently.
You could experience a wide range of overwhelming emotions or appear to react in no way. Both responses are correct and common.
The amount of time spent exploring the phases of grieving differs from person to person. It could take you hours, months, or years to comprehend and heal from a loss.
You may not go through all of the steps of grief in the sequence indicated below. You might switch from one step to the next.
You could even skip all of these feelings and deal with your loss in a different way. The 5 steps of grief are meant to be a guideline, not a rule.
This may be the first reaction to a loss for some people.
Denial is a typical defensive strategy. It could help you deal with the immediate shock of the painful circumstances.
You may initially deny the reality of the loss as an immediate reaction.
Here are a few examples of this form of denial:
- If you’re facing the loss of a loved one, you could fantasize that someone would call to say there was a mistake and nothing occurred.
- If you’re going through a breakup, you may convince yourself that your lover will soon regret leaving and return to you.
- Or if you lost your job, you may believe that your former boss would rehire you once they realized they made a mistake.
After the first shock and denial, you may feel numb for a while.
You may feel as though nothing matters to you at some point. Life as you knew it has shifted. It may be difficult to believe that you can go on.
The first stage of grief is a natural reaction that allows you to process your loss at your own pace. By becoming numb, you give yourself time to explore the changes you’re experiencing at your own pace.
Denial is a transitory reaction that gets you over the initial wave of pain. When you’re ready, the denied sentiments and emotions will resurface, and your recovery path will resume.
Anger can take various forms. According to Kübler-Ross, grief is frequently diverted and manifested as rage.
It may surprise you or your loved ones that you are angry, but it is not uncommon. This rage has a purpose.
Anger may be especially overwhelming for some people since it is a feared or shunned emotion in many cultures. You may be used to avoiding it rather than confronting it.
During the rage step of grief, you may begin to wonder, “Why me?” Alternatively, “What did I do to deserve this?”
You may become enraged at inanimate objects, strangers, friends, or family members. You might be angry with life.
It’s entirely uncommon to feel resentment at the situation or person you’ve lost. Rationally, you may recognize that the individual is not at fault. However, you may dislike them emotionally for giving you pain or leaving you.
You may also feel guilty for being furious at some point. This may aggravate you.
Remind yourself that beneath your rage comes hurt. Even if it doesn’t feel like it, rage is vital for healing.
Anger can also be used to reconnect with the world after being isolated from it during the denial stage. When you’re numb, you lose contact with everyone. You connect when you’re angry, even if only through this emotion.
However, rage isn’t the only feeling you could feel during this time. Other ways you may cope with your loss include irritability, anger, worry, rage, and impatience. It’s all part of the same thing.
Bargaining is a stage of grief that allows you to maintain hope in the face of extreme agony.
You may convince yourself that you are willing to do anything and sacrifice everything if your life can be returned to its pre-loss state.
During this internal negotiation, you may find yourself thinking in terms of “what if” or “if only”: what if I did ABC, then everything would be fine; if only I had done something different to avoid the loss.
Guilt may accompany you during this period as you mistakenly attempt to reclaim control, even if at your own expense.
All of these feelings and thoughts are common. As difficult as it may feel, this helps you heal as you face the truth of your loss.
Depression, like all other stages of mourning, is experienced differently. There is no right or wrong method to go about it, and there is no time limit to overcome it.
In this case, depression is not an indicator of a mental health problem. It is, instead, a natural and healthy reaction to grief.
During the depression stage, you begin to confront your current reality and the inevitability of the loss you’ve suffered. Understandably, this knowledge may fill you with sadness and despair.
This overwhelming melancholy may cause you to feel differently in other areas as well. You could sense:
- Not wanting to move on
- Not being hungry or wanting to eat
- Perplexed and preoccupied.
- Not being able or wanting to get ready in the morning.
- Not being able to enjoy what you once did
All of this is usually temporary and a direct response to your grief process
As difficult as it may feel at this time, this step is an essential part of your recovery process.
Acceptance does not always imply agreement with what occurred. It’s understandable if you don’t ever feel this way, depending on your experience.
Acceptance is more concerned with how you recognize your losses, learn to live with them, and modify your life accordingly.
During this stage, you may feel more comfortable reaching out to friends and family, but it’s also natural to choose to withdraw at times.
You may also feel as if you accepted the loss and then went to another stage of grief. This back-and-forth between stages is normal and necessary for recovery.
You may find yourself stationed at this stage for extended periods of time in the future.
That doesn’t mean you’ll never feel sad or angry about your loss again, but your long-term perspective on it and how you deal with it will be different.
Many mental health experts who work with the grief process use Kübler-five Ross’s stages of grief as a framework.
Some of these specialists, such as British psychiatrist John Bowlby, have created their own work centered on the emotional reactions to loss. Others have adapted and enlarged the original five-stage paradigm, including Kübler-Ross herself.
This adaptation is sometimes referred to as the Kübler-Ross Change Curve. It expands grief’s five fundamental stages to seven overlapping stages:
- Shock: The shock of the loss was intense and at times paralyzing.
- Denial: Disbelief and the desire to find proof to substantiate the loss
- Anger and disappointment: A mixture of acceptance that certain things have changed and rage at this change.
- Depression: Intense melancholy and a lack of energy
- Testing: Experimenting with the new scenario to figure out what it signifies in your life.
- Decision: A growing sense of optimism about figuring out how to deal with the new situation.
- Integration: Acceptance of the new reality, a meditation on what you’ve learned, and re-entry into the world as a refreshed individual.
How to Assist Someone Who Is Grieving
When someone has suffered a loss, it can be difficult to know what to say or do. We do our best to provide comfort, yet our efforts might sometimes feel insufficient and useless.
Here are some pointers to keep in mind if someone you care about is going through the stages of grief:
#1. Avoid saving or repairing
We may provide positive, hopeful comments or even laughter in an attempt to soothe their discomfort or “fix them.” While the intention is genuine, this method might leave people feeling as if their sorrow is not being seen, heard, or validated.
#2. Don’t push it
We may be so desperate to assist and make the individual feel better that we believe urging them to communicate and process their emotions before they are actually ready will help them faster. This is not always the case, and it might actually hinder their healing.
#3. Make yourself available
Allow people to grieve in a safe environment. This informs the person that we are available when they are. We can invite them to chat with us, but we must remember to offer empathy and validation if they are not yet ready. Remind them that you are available and that they should not hesitate to contact you.
When to Seek Assistance
Reaching out for help might bring comfort and support if you are feeling tremendous grief and are unsure how to deal.
Any reason that makes sense to you is an excellent cause to seek assistance.
Other situations in which you might want to seek assistance in processing your loss include:
- You have to return to school or work and are struggling to complete your everyday tasks. For example, you may be having difficulty concentrating.
- You are someone else’s only or primary guardian or source of support. You might be a single parent or someone else’s caregiver, for example.
- You are in physical discomfort or suffering.
- You’re skipping meals or pills because you don’t want to get out of bed or do anything.
- Your emotions are becoming more intense and frequent, rather than appearing in waves or diminishing over time.
- You’ve considered harming others or yourself.
- You are not alone if you or someone you know is considering self-harm. There is immediate assistance available:
Call a crisis hotline, such as 800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Text HOME to 741741, the Crisis Text Line. Depending on your resources, there are a few additional methods to get assistance.
Family and friends
Talking with friends or family members may provide you with some relief.
Verbally articulating how you feel might sometimes help to relieve some of the inner turmoil you may be feeling.
Sometimes you don’t want to talk and would rather have silent company.
Expressing your needs to others allows them to assist you in the manner that you believe is ideal for your situation.
Participating in support groups might also be beneficial. There are both local and online support groups available.
You can connect with others in the group who have experienced or are experiencing similar losses. They can also point you in the direction of additional resources.
Support groups can also provide a secure area for you to express yourself without feeling criticized or coerced, something you may experience when speaking with others.
Professionals in mental health
Grief counseling and therapy are two methods for working with a mental health professional who can help you through your own process.
If you have insurance, contact your provider to see if grief counseling is covered under your policy and, if so, under what conditions.
If your insurance does not cover counseling, your primary care physician may be able to provide some assistance or guidance.
If you do not have health insurance or are not covered for this treatment, you could look for a local organization that offers grief counseling at a low or free cost.
Many local or regional chapters exist for many national mental health organizations, such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Calling them directly may provide you with some of this information as well as their specialized grief support services.
5 Steps of Grief FAQs
What stage of grief is anger?
The phases of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance provide a framework for comprehending the grieving process. Anger is the second most commonly characterized stage of grief.
What grieving does to the body?
Grief has a number of physiological impacts, including increased inflammation, joint pain, headaches, and digestive issues. It can also reduce your immunity, making you more prone to sickness. Grief can also lead to cardiovascular problems, insomnia, and bad coping techniques.
How long should grief last?
Grief has no predetermined length or duration, and it may come and go in waves. According to a study, persons who experience common sorrow may have improvements in symptoms after around 6 months, but the symptoms largely subside in 1 to 2 years.