The Stages of Grief: Accepting The Unacceptable

Nikhil Goswami

We all go through grief, whether it’s the end of a relationship or job or losing a loved one. Grief is an integral part of being human. Generally, there is no set way to grieve, as each person is different, and they experience grief in their way.

People move through grief at different stages, and there are more than different models with different stages of grieving. Here we explore two different models with stages of grief. We also give answers to some frequently asked questions about grief.

Are There Five or Seven Stages of Grief?

The five stages of grief have been a popular model for understanding how people process loss. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, a swiss American psychiatrist, introduced the model in her book about Death and Dying.

Kubler-Ross originally identified these stages after spending time with terminally ill patients. She found that the patients tended to go through similar patterns in dealing with their mortality. Still, you will come across other models of grief, like the seven stages of grief, though it is not more common than the five-stage model.

The Five Stages of Grief

According to the Kübler ross model, the five stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. The time it takes to pass through these different phases is different for everyone. Besides, there isn’t a right or wrong way to grieve a loss. The following is a summary of each stage:

  1. Denial Stage

Denial is one stage of grief that many people experience when they lose someone important in their lives. In this stage, it’s normal for you to refuse to accept that death or loss has occurred.

Denial allows you to find a way to move on with your life and put the loss behind you. Denying a loss, especially when it’s something like death, is not easy. However, it is necessary to start healing and moving forward.

When someone loses a loved one or job, gets a divorce, or has a persistent illness, they might not want to talk about it. It is because they do not want others to know how much pain they are going through. This is why denial is vital for people who are grieving. It helps them get through difficult times without others seeing how damaged their lives are at that moment in time.

If you are in denial about a loss in your life, then take some time off from work or school. You can also talk to mental health professionals. Hence, you can focus on healing.

Denial helps you make sense of overwhelming emotions like anger and sadness. It gives you time to process what happened before you confront those feelings. You might also fear how your life will change after the loss occurs.

Denial is the first stage of grief. Thus, it’s important not to rush someone into accepting their loss too quickly. Doing so could cause them more harm than good.


“I’m fine.”

“Everything’s going to be okay.”

“It’s not that bad.”

  1. Anger

Anger is a stage that everyone goes through when they are grieving. The anger stage can be challenging for the person who is grieving to cope with. It involves feelings of helplessness and despair.

Anger can help motivate you to make changes in your life that will help you heal from grief. For example, if you get angry when people tell you that you can do nothing about your loss, this can help motivate you to find new ways of coping with grief.

The first thing you should know about anger is that it doesn’t last forever, and you will eventually move on from this stage of grief. Your feelings may change over time, but they will eventually change. Therefore, don’t worry about getting stuck in this stage forever.

The key is learning how to handle your anger correctly without hurting yourself or others around you during this difficult time. Still, you can visit a mental health professional if you want to know how you can cope with your feelings. Anger can lead us down dark paths where we do things we later regret. However, there are ways of expressing anger without doing so destructively.


“Why did God let this happen?”

“Why me?”

“I hate you!”

  1. Bargaining

The bargaining stage of grief is a complex one. It involves a person’s attempt to bargain with God or some other higher power to make the loss go away. This stage can last for several months or even years.

People who are grieving may feel that somehow they could have prevented the loss. Thus, they may try bargaining with God to regain their loved ones. They will ask: “What did I do wrong? Why did this happen?” This is not a good time to make major life decisions, like getting married or moving. It’s best to wait until you’re out of this stage before making such decisions.

Another way people in this stage of grief express themselves is by blaming others: “If only they hadn’t done this or that….” Note that these are just thoughts, not facts. Nobody would be at fault for your loved one’s death unless they committed suicide.


“If I could get more time with him, he’d have a chance.”

“Maybe if we move closer to the hospital, my father will recover and go home.”

  1. Depression

Depression is another complicated grief stage. It can last for years and be hard to get out of. It is characterized by sadness, hopelessness, and negativity.

In the depression stage of grief, people often find themselves unable to enjoy the things they used to enjoy. They may feel sad or hopeless about the future and their ability to cope with life’s challenges. In addition, they may have a hard time experiencing joy or pleasure.

Talking about your feelings with others can help relieve some of the burdens and allow you to see things from another perspective. Try talking with friends, family members, or support groups who know how much this loss has affected you. They may have some helpful advice on how best to move forward after a divorce or death takes place in one’s life.


People in the depression stage of grief may say things like:

“I don’t want to live anymore.”

“No one cares about me.”

“I’m too old to get another job.”

  1. Acceptance

The acceptance stage of grief is the final stage in dealing with loss. It’s when you finally come to terms with your loss and begin to move forward.

It is important since it allows you to stop living in the past and start living in the present. It gives you the chance to move on. Thus, this is what many people want after losing a loved one or going through another difficult time.

Besides, people in the acceptance stage talk about loss can vary depending on what happened and how they feel. Some people may have trouble discussing it, while others may talk about it freely and openly.


“I’m so grateful he’s not suffering anymore.”

“I’m getting my life back together again.”

“I am glad to have had so many wonderful years with my spouse.”

“I’ve come to terms with my illness and am ready to move on with my life.”

The Seven Stages of Grief

  • Shock and Denial: Whenever you first hear about the loss, you may experience shock or disbelief. This normal reaction helps protect you from the pain of reality for a short time. You may think that your loved one will recover or that you will wake up from this horrible nightmare.
  • Pain and Guilt: In the second stage, pain and guilt set in as the reality of your loss becomes clear. You will often feel alone, even with family and friends around you.
  • Anger and Bargaining: During this stage of grief, anger often comes out in full force. You might feel mad at yourself, other people, God, or the universe as you try to understand why this happened. You may withdraw from others because you don’t want to talk about your feelings.
  • Depression: Depression can take over your life as you feel overwhelming sadness and despair over losing someone or something important to you. It’s common for people in this stage to struggle with hopelessness and despair over their loss.
  • The Upward Turn / The Turnaround: After going through an overwhelming emotion, many people experience an upward turn or turnaround. The stage can help them recover from their loss more quickly than they would have believed possible before the death occurred.
  • Rebuilding and Working Through: As you rebuild your life without your loved one or job, you’ll find that life isn’t as hopeless as it once was. Moreover, you will notice that many things still make life worth living. They include memories and photos from happier times.
  • Acceptance and Hope: This final stage of grief features various things. Acceptance of what has happened, hope for the future, and a return to the new reality in your life. Hence, you can move on with it once again.

What Is the Toughest Stage of the Grieving Process in Case of Sudden Death?

The toughest stage of grief is different for everyone. That’s because each individual’s grieving process is unique, and there is no set timeline for how it progresses.

You may not experience every one of these stages, but you may still feel like your grief is taking longer than it should. Or you get stuck on one particular step for an extended period. This can be very frustrating, but it’s important to remember that everyone grieves differently.

How Long Will Every Stage of Grief Take to Vanish?

The length of time it takes for each stage of grief to subside depends on the individual. Some may take a couple of days, while others could take years. However, it is important to note that some people may skip one or two stages and move straight into another. This does not mean they don’t feel the pain as deeply as those going through all the stages. It is just that they do not feel the need to process their emotions at such a slow pace.

Is It Possible for One to Go Through Repeat Stages of Grief?

Yes, one can go through repeat stages of grief if there is a sudden reminder. Or if something new happens in their lives that trigger the same feelings all over again. For example, losing your job and then getting another job but with less pay than before can trigger your anger and frustration. This is because you’re now worse off than before.

If I Skip the Stages of Grief, Like the Denial Stage, Will It Affect Me?

You may feel a sense of relief if you skip the stages of grief. However, unresolved grief does not mean you have gotten over your loss. You may feel in denial or repressing your feelings about your loss.

As a grieving person, it is vital to acknowledge your feelings and work through them to heal from your loss. If you are having difficulty with the stages of grief, seek help from a counselor or therapist who can help guide you through this process.

Why Should You Understand the Stages of Grief?

Understanding the stages of grief helps make sense of what you’re feeling after a loss. This knowledge may help you know why people react differently to death, divorce, job loss, etc., even if they’ve experienced similar losses. For example, one person may be tearful and sad when talking about their loss.

On the other hand, another person may get angry and lash out at others for saying the wrong thing about their loved one who died. Understanding the stages of grief can help you accept these differences in others and yourself, too.

Wrapping Up

Hopefully, you’ve learned something from this article. Regardless of the type of loss, whether emotional pain or not, it’s important to know the grief stages outlined in this article. The most important thing to remember is that grief is a process.

Therefore, the healing process can take years, sometimes even decades, depending on the type of loss you’re dealing with. Once you understand that grief is an ongoing process, not an event or a single stage, it becomes easier to deal with the emotions that come with loss. Hence, you will also understand the healing journey.

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