The 7 Stages of Grief Model

Shock or Disbelief
Acceptance and Hope

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The 7 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 idea of stages of grief suggests that if one is in one of these stages there is nothing they can do but wait until they pass into the next stage. This is a damaging myth.

If grief is troubling you, there is something you can do about it. You do not need to wait it out. You can enjoy peace, love and happiness again much sooner than you think.  There are a series of specific actions that can help you release the pain of guilt, regret and other unfinished business in the relationship. These steps will help you then do the work of adjusting your life to your loss so you can move forward in the new normal.

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 possible 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.

7 Stages of Grief

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 or days. This experience can be surprising to many individuals because they 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. For some people putting words to feelings can be a challenge.  Some people say, "I'm not sure how I'm supposed to feel." 

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 recovery coaching can provide a safe place to explore the anger and help uncover the source of the anger.  If you experience anger in grief, there is a reason it is there and it needs to be acknowledged and validated.

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.  It is possible to get relief for a heart weighed down with guilt.

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.  Many people don't experience acceptance and hope after loss because there are some specific tasks related to resolving grief that need to be addressed.

The 7 stages of grief is a myth because not everyone follows this prescribed order when dealing with grief. Many people grieve without experiencing some of these stages. The most important help when grieving is to acknowledge the feelings that you have.  A trained supportive listener can be of great support when your heart is broken. Follow the link to learn more about finding meaning and hope to restore happiness through grief recovery coaching.

To spare oneself from grief at any cost can be achieved only at the price of total detachment which excludes the ability to experience happiness. ~Erich Fromm