The 7 Stages of Grief Model

The 7 Stages of Grief include the following:

Shock or Disbelief

Denial

Anger

Bargaining

Guilt

Depression

Acceptance and Hope

The seven stages of grief model is similar to the Kubler-Ross stages of grief. In the seven stages of grief the initial stage is shock or disbelief. There is also the addition of Guilt as a stage.

The term stages is somewhat unfortunate because it suggests a progression that naturally happens over time. In reality, these stages are more like examples of emotions a grieving person may experience after a loss. People may or may not experience all of these reactions. They may have additional grief symptoms that are not included here.


Shock or Disbelief can be the first reaction to news that a loved one has passed. Many people report numbness where they don’t feel anything in the first few moments. This experience can be surprising to many individuals because may not immediately sense the devastated feelings they would expect to feel with such news.


Denial doesn't so much occur in the grieving process when the mourner “forgets” that their loved one has passed away.Denial is related to how one expresses their emotions surrounding grief. For example, a person who continually says, "I'm fine," after a significant loss is likely denying his or her feelings.  It may also be true that the bereaved person does not know how to share their feelings with those closest to them.


Anger is not a universal emotion during the grief process. While it is not unusual to experience anger and many other feelings after a significant loss, it is not required. Some people become angry at themselves or the person who left them or simply at the situation they are left to face alone. Grief coaching can provide a safe place to explore the anger and help uncover the source of the anger.


Bargaining refers to attempts to make a deal, often with God, to change the situation. Elizabeth Kübler-Ross noted Bargaining in her observations of individuals dying from a terminal illness. Bargaining may not be so frequent when a loved one has died, but is likely present in other losses such as divorce, break up, job loss, home loss or other transition, where there is some hope the situation could be changed by an all-powerful God.


Guilt can occur when the bereaved have regrets about things they did or said before the loved one died or left them. There is a wish to turn back the clock and do some things differently. This is another area where grief coaching can be especially helpful to give the griever a space to share their memories and regrets in a supportive environment.


Depression is often used to describe the profound sadness that is a natural human reaction to grief and loss. The symptoms of grief are very similar to those of clinical depression.


Acceptance and Hope. In the last stage of the 7 stages of grief one arrives at the belief that although life will never be the same again after the loss, there is hope that life will go on.


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Return to Kubler-Ross Stages of Grief from 7 Stages of Grief


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Debbra Bronstad, LMFT
MFC 52836
Marriage & Family Therapist
Grief Recovery Specialist®
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