Psychologists’ 20 Stages of Grief Acceptance

We all hope that the best is waiting around the bend, and there are only joyful and happy moments ahead. But unfortunately, in the life of every person there are “black” days of grief. They are inevitable and ruthless like a hurricane, and we only have to assess the scale of the destruction and, if possible, recover. If after some events you can get by with a little blood, others will not leave a living place in the soul.

We are talking here primarily about the death of a loved one or a serious illness.

stages of grief

Many have heard or read about the 5 stages of accepting grief. It is a popular concept that describes the process of mourning from the event itself to the final exit from the experience.

The main five stages are: Denial → Anger → Trade → Depression → Humility) were presented by a psychologist Elizabeth Kubler-Ross back in 1969 after a long contact with incurable patients and their relatives.

Later, this model was refined by other scientists. In this article, I invite you to study the augmented Kübler-Ross model. Perhaps understanding the psychological processes at the time of loss will one day help you or your loved ones.


1. Shock

This stage begins at the moment when the person learns about the tragic event. It is characterized by a state of emotional stupor. A person feels the unreality of what is happening and does not give an account of his actions. The classic physiological manifestations of shock are common: difficulty breathing, tachycardia, dizziness.

2. Numbness

At the stage of numbness, a person often acts and speaks in a slow, clumsy manner. At this point, he tries to fit the event into his system of life and, as a rule, fails. The brain can’t handle the load. There are no visible emotional manifestations; rather, on the contrary, the person turns to stone.

3. Denial

At this stage, a person begins to deny what happened, convincing himself of the inconstancy of the tragedy. The grieving person cannot come to terms with the loss, denies it, convincing himself that “the doctors were wrong,” “the police misidentified the person,” etc. The world around us is perceived as a bad dream, and tragedy is perceived as something temporary.


4. Emotional outbursts

Here, finally, an understanding of the full severity of what has happened comes and emotions begin to break through the wall of numbness. The man realized that “as before” will no longer be. Emotions can be different – from tears to hysterical laughter. At first, they will come out in jerks, because the awareness of the finiteness and irreversibility of the event also does not come immediately.

5. Anger

At this stage, the grieving person has already fully experienced the power of emotions. As a defensive reaction, it is easiest for a person to be angry, behave aggressively or destructively.

6. Fear

At the stage of fear, obsessive thoughts appear, which are dictated by a person’s inadaptation to new conditions. As a rule, fears are associated with a misunderstanding of how to continue to exist. You can often hear phrases: “I can’t live without him / her”, “I’m no longer the same as dead” etc. Obsessive-compulsive behavior, obsessive desire to protect other people, hysteria are possible.

7. Finding a way out

Since the state of fear cannot be long-term, consciousness comes to attempts to rationalize reality. Apparent activity and consistency, however, is deceiving – it is dictated by mania and will soon disappear.

8. Disorganization

The primary influx of forces ends, the person realizes the meaninglessness of his own actions. At this stage, the grieving person seems to be “blown away” – the meaning of what is happening is lost, everyday rituals are also no longer important.

9. Panic

A false awareness of the meaninglessness of life comes, and then comes panic. Panic states are always accompanied by physical manifestations.


10. Wines

At this stage, the person is trying to find the “blame” for what happened. Thus, consciousness wants to rationalize tragedy, put it on a cause-and-effect track. The guilty person in the tragedy can be either an outsider or himself. The grieving person attaches importance to even the smallest of his own or someone else’s “blunders”.

11. Loneliness

The grief survivor fully feels his loss and begins to think that no one can understand him at this moment.

12. Insulation

Forced loneliness gradually turns into voluntary isolation. A person seems to have a wall between him and the world around him, which, on the one hand, protects him from external shocks, and on the other, does not give a normal outlet for emotions and the ability to share his pain with someone.

13. Depression

This is the apotheosis of acute mourning. A person, left alone with his tragedy, again and again experiences all the circumstances of what happened. At this stage, the most intense work of grief takes place, an attempt to adapt to a new reality.


14. Trouble getting back to normal life

Having gone through all the stages of “introducing” grief into his reality, a person tries to return to life, and at first he succeeds badly. The grieving person has already emerged from the “cocoon” of grief, but still experiences acute attacks of suffering, which, however, occur less and less frequently.

15. New relationship

Relationships in this case do not mean love, but any new communications with society that are not overshadowed by tragedy. The person again tries to identify himself as a person outside of what happened.

16. New forces

Once the grieving survivor realizes that life is going on and that the label of grief does not hang on him, the strength to continue his daily activities appears.

17. New ways to live

Since the tragedy left an emotional and spiritual emptiness, it is very important to find a conditional replacement for what was lost. The person tries to act out new scenarios, introduce new habits, change the circle of communication.


18. Hope

Having resigned himself to the loss and regaining his normal existence, a person begins to realize that tragedy is not the final point. There is hope for a prosperous life after loss, faith in the best returns.

19. Rethinking

If at the previous stages a person perceived what was lost exclusively through dark colors, now in memories and thoughts a light sadness can appear, which makes it possible to rethink what happened.

20. Helping others

At the final stage of successful adaptation, work has been done within himself and the person is ready to share his strength with others. Such altruism shows that the work of grief is over and you can move on.

young woman

The full cycle of accepting grief takes a long period of time. As a rule, adaptation takes at least a year, but everything is very individual. Grieving is not a work task; you don’t have to strive to complete the five-year plan in three years. Give your psyche as much time as it needs to.

I would also like to draw your attention to the fact that this diagram is not an instruction or a clear plan. The stages may come at the same time, with a delay, or not at all. Try to accept everything that will happen to you and do not forget: any state is normal, do not judge yourself, do not compare your experience of grief with others.

Your main task: go through this difficult period and find the strength and desire to live again.

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