5 Stages of Grief and Loss

Grief and loss are both natural parts of life. When we lose a loved one, it is normal to feel sad. There are five separate stages of grief and loss. They are known to be experienced by people across all cultures. These five stages were first proposed by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her 1969 book, On Death and Dying. 

Importantly, people do not always progress straight through these five stages. It is not unusual for people to go back and forth between them. Therefore, it is important for everyone to lean on their social support systems as they go through the five stages. Finally, remember that there are trained professionals willing to lend a helping hand.

1. Denial and Isolation

The first stage of grief is denial. This is usually accompanied by isolation. During this stage, it is normal for people to think that there is no way the situation can be real. This is usually a reflexive response to hearing about the loss of a loved one. People instantly respond with denial, thinking that there is no way the person is gone.

As other people continue to tell this person that their loved one has passed away, they run away from these people to avoid these statements. This is where the isolation comes from. Eventually, people progress out of this first stage and move to the second one.

2. Anger

The second stage of grief is anger. This anger does not necessarily have to be at the death of the loved one. Nearly anyone, or anything, can be the target of this anger. This anger could be aimed at inanimate objects. It might be aimed at total strangers. Individuals often get angry at family members and friends.

Importantly, this anger is not a way to place blame, but is simply a coping mechanism. Individuals do not want to accept the reality of the situation and get angry with the world in general. Eventually, people vent this anger and move to the third stage of grief.

3. Bargaining

The third stage of grief is bargaining. People who are going through grief will bargain with just about anyone or anything. Even though people going through grief often bargain in a religious setting, hoping to rectify the situation, they will also bargain with family members and friends, knowing that they have no control over the situation.

This is often where feelings of guilt start to show up. Statements usually start with “if only,” such as “if only we had stopped him from getting in that car,” or “if only we had sought medical care sooner.” These are common signs that someone is going through the bargaining stage of grief. Eventually, this bargaining will cease and the next stage will appear.

4. Depression

Depression is the fourth stage of grief. It is a common and serious medical issue. Some of the most common signs of depression include:

  • Changes in sleep, either sleeping more or sleeping less
  • Changes in eating habits, either sleeping more or sleeping less
  • Massive feelings of guilt, regardless of whether they are justified
  • A loss of enjoyment in activities that used to bring pleasure
  • Thoughts of suicide

While there are lots of types of depression, there are two types of depression that are associated with mourning. The first is called bereavement or adjustment disorder, which is where these symptoms go on for a period of weeks. If the symptoms do not subside, depression turns into Major Depressive Disorder, which requires the care of a mental health professional.

5. Acceptance

The last stage of grief is called acceptance. This phase is marked by withdrawal and calm. This is not a period of happiness but it must be distinguished from depression. Acceptance does not have the symptoms of depression listed above. This does not mean that the individual is at peace with the loss of a loved one, but does mark a movement away from depression.

You Do Not Have to Experience Loss Alone

Coping with loss is ultimately a deeply personal and singular experience; however, you do not have to go through this alone. Jonas Hill is here for you. If you are experiencing grief or loss that is overwhelming and are unsure of what to do, we are here to help. Contact us today to make an appointment with a member of our team.


Jonas Hill Hospital & Clinic a division of Caldwell Memorial Hospital provides our community with safe, dignified and integrated care for adult patients experiencing an acute mental health need. We provide hope, treatment, and healing through a holistic program of evidence-based psychiatric treatment, team-based medical care, and education provided by engaging and dedicated professionals in a safe and healing environment. Contact Jonas Hill Hospital and Clinic today at (828) 394-6722 for more information.