Grief and Bereavement

Grief and Bereavement

The five stages of grief:

In 1969, psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross introduced what became known as the “five stages of grief.” These stages of grief were based on her research with patients facing terminal illness, but have been generalized to other types of negative life changes and losses, such as the death of a loved one or a break-up.

* Denial: “This can’t be happening to me.”
* Anger: “Why is this happening? Who is to blame?”
* Bargaining: “Make this not happen, and in return I will ____.”
* Depression: “I’m too sad to do anything.”
* Acceptance: “I’m at peace with what happened.”

Not everyone who is grieving goes through all of these stages. You do not have to go through each stage in order to heal. The stages are not sequential, which means you may bounce from denial to depression to anger and back to denial.

Kübler-Ross herself never intended for these stages to be a rigid framework that applies to everyone who mourns. In her last book before her death in 2004, she said of the five stages of grief, “They were never meant to help tuck messy emotions into neat packages. They are responses to loss that many people have, but there is not a typical response to loss, as there is no typical loss. Our grieving is as individual as our lives.”

What Should I Expect to Feel Like?

Think of the grieving process as a roller coaster, full of ups and downs, highs and lows. Like many roller coasters, the ride tends to be rougher in the beginning, the lows may be deeper and longer. The difficult periods should become less intense and shorter as time goes by, but it takes time to work through a loss. Even years after a loss, especially at special events such as a family wedding or the birth of a child, we may still experience a strong sense of grief.

When Will I Feel Better?

There is no way to answer that question. The length of the grief process depends on many factors, including what or who was lost.

How Can I Distinguish Between Depression and Grief?

Symptoms that may suggest depression, rather then grief:

* Intense, pervasive sense of guilt.
* Thoughts of suicide or a preoccupation with dying.
* Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness.
* Slow speech and body movements
* Inability to function at work, home, and/or school.
* Seeing or hearing things that aren’t there.

This handout was created by Dominique Samuels, PsyD (PSY23442)
Some of the information found on this handout was taken from
Contact Dr. Samuels at or visit her website:

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