7 Stages of Grief

7 Stages of Grief Explained

Grief is complicated and messy. For many of us it’s a feeling that can’t be neatly put into categories but there are some common patterns in grief.

Many of us know the stages as the Five Stages of Grief, also known as the Kubler-Ross model. This model was introduced by Swiss psychiatrist Elizabeth Kubler-Ross in her 1969 book On Death and Dying. The 7 stages of grief still follow the Kubler-Ross Model, but they are modified to include other stages.

Experiencing a loss of a loved one, pet, or even the end of a relationship can lead to months, if not years, of grief. The best way to begin to heal is to try to understand grief and loss and how to work through it.

The grief process doesn’t stick to orderly steps. But usually, a person experiences between 4 and 7 stages of grief. They can be experienced in any order and can occur more than once. The important thing to remember is, there is no right way to grief. It is your own grief process and you can allow yourself to go through it your own way.

The original five stages of grief include denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. The 7 stages of grief are an expanded version of this. These stages are:

  • Shock and denail
  • Pain and guilt
  • Anger and bargaining
  • Depression, reflection, and loneliness
  • The turn
  • Testing and Reconstruction
  • Acceptance

Let’s dig deeper into each of the stages to understand grief a little more.

Shock and Denial

When a person first gets the news of a loss, they go into shock. You feel absolutely numb and can’t make any decisions. You think things like “this can’t be true”. This numb feeling works to shield you from the actual pain of the loss and can last a few weeks.

Shock and denial are ways a person protects themselves from the pain. There is no time limit on this stage, a person must work through their feelings at their own pace. Sometimes, a loss is too painful to face and we are able to put off the grief for a time in this stage.

Pain and Guilt

Once shock and denial begin to fade, the person will notice the pain of their loss. Everything becomes clear and you realize the loss is real. This is the hardest and most chaotic stage of grief. The pain can be hard to handle and be emotional as well as physical.

Guilt is an emotion that also comes up. Even if the guilt is illogical, a person thinks about what they could have or should have done to prevent the loss. It is common for people to blame themselves or others for the loss.

Also, a person may turn to alcohol or drugs in order to cope at this stage.

Anger and Bargaining

As you can see, guilt may give way to anger. When you start blaming others for a death, anger is a common response. There may be anger at a religion, at doctors, at caregivers. The anger isn’t rational but it is a very real stage. A person may seek out someone to blame for the loss and even try to bargain to bring that person back.

Bargaining comes into play when a loss is looming. If a relative is in a coma and near death, bargaining becomes more pronounced. A person may say things like “If he would just pull through I’ll be a better person.” The individual is trying to avoid a state of grief by negotiating out of it. A person will cling to any possible hope.

Unfortunately, we all know there’s no way to avoid loss in our lives.

Depression, reflection, and loneliness

Usually, this stage occurs later in the grieving process. Friends and family are starting to get over the loss and out of nowhere, you start to feel depressed again. The pain at the beginning is hard but, this pain may hit you harder. At this stage you are coming to terms with the loss you’ve experienced.

This stage isn’t purely about the feeling of loss. You are feeling the change in your life and that things will never be the same. You will never have the person back. The death is permanent and you begin to realize your own mortality as well.

All of these things can lead to depression, reflection, and loneliness. In this stage, you begin to realize the greatness of the loss you’ve experienced and are left in a state of loneliness. You may reflect on all the good times before the death. These times of reflection can lead to an immense sadness and depression.

An individual may become removed during this stage and isolate themselves. the symptoms of depression will lessen as a person moves towards acceptance.

The turn

You may not even notice yourself turning at first. Just when you think you’ll never be happy or okay again, you may wake up one day and feel a little bit better. This can be so subtle you don’t notice at first. But, everyday, little by little, you feel better.

Testing and Reconstruction

In this stage, a person begins to work their way through the aftermath of a loss or death.

During the testing stage, a person starts to seek out activities to escape their grief. Also, there is reconstruction that takes place. A person starts to put their life back together and searches for solutions to come out of grief.

During this stage, a person starts to get back out there and put their life together again. Although things will never again be like they were before the loss, there is a way to still live a full life. That is what is attempted during this stage.

This stage is where acceptance begins.


This final stage of the grief process is where a person comes to terms with the loss. Although you will never “get over” the loss, you will begin to come to terms with it and move on with your life.

Once a person is in the acceptance stage, they are able to talk about the death or loss without feeling despair. You may feel peace at this stage. Of course, it’s normal to have the pain come up again at different times. Death anniversaries or birthdays can stir up the feelings of grief again. It’s important to remember dealing with a loss is a life long process.

Variations on the 7 stages of grief

The loss of a relationship or a divorce also have a grief process. The emotions brought up by a breakup are like those brought up from a death.

With the loss of a relationship, bargaining includes a relapse stage. This is a stage where a person may convince their ex-partner to try again. They may says things like, “If you take me back, it’ll be different this time.” This special kind of bargaining is common in the grief process of breakups.

Another stage that can occur with death is getting stuck. A person may not be able to move on to a stage of grief because the grief is too much to handle. They become unwilling to move through the process. In the worst case of this, a person may be stuck in anger, denial, or depression for the rest of their lives.

As you can see, grief is a life long process. The stages and timetable are different for everyone. Again, there is no right or wrong way to go through the grief process. Hopefully, knowing a little more about it as you go through is helpful in the long run.



Understand the 7 Stages of Grief to Cope With Pain and Distress





author avatar
Angel Rivera
I am a Bilingual (Spanish) Psychiatrist with a mixture of strong clinical skills including Emergency Psychiatry, Consultation Liaison, Forensic Psychiatry, Telepsychiatry and Geriatric Psychiatry training in treatment of the elderly. I have training in EMR records thus very comfortable in working with computers. I served the difficult to treat patients in challenging environments in outpatient and inpatient settings
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