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The Five Stages of Grief and What They Mean

7th February 2017   Advice

When a loved one passes, it can be incredibly hard to cope with certain aspects of everyday life. Everybody grieves in different ways, and feeling a little lost is entirely normal if you’ve recently experienced the death of somebody close to you.

The truth is, grief is as peculiar as love; each individual experience is unique. One size does not fit all, but understanding the five stages will help you comprehend what it is that you may be feeling. The five stages of grief were initially devised by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in 1969. Here, we explain each of those stages, what to expect and how to deal with bereavement.


comfort hands grief

Grief stage one: Isolation and denial

The initial part of the five stages of grief usually includes feelings of shock, disbelief and dismay. Whether you are experiencing a sudden loss or the death was expected, many people have a difficult time facing the painful reality of the situation. As a result, they become isolated and in denial as a means of emotional protection. This stage can sometimes last for months.

What to do: Give yourself time and accept the passing of your loved one. This is an incredibly painful time, but being aware of the situation will enable you to grieve and move on. Life can feel disorderly during this stage, and you may consider taking a break from work. Try to surround yourself with those who may be grieving too, talk about your feelings and release the bottled emotions to allow the pain to be felt.

isolation and grief

Grief stage two: Indignation

Frustration from feeling lost and pained can lead to anger. Stage two in the five stages of grief may include searching for someone or something to blame, but these kinds of feelings could cause permanent damage to your relationships, therefore it’s wise to deal with them quickly and calmly.

What to do: Record your thoughts of anger and frustration in a journal or diary.The best place to do this is somewhere quiet and peaceful where you can be alone with your thoughts.

Grief stage three: Bargaining

This is the part where your mind will be trying to search for solutions. You may ask yourself questions such as…

“why did this happen to me?”
“what did I do to deserve this pain?”

You may be wondering if something could have been done differently in order to prevent their passing. Becoming lost in a maze of “what if’s” or “if only’s” is a result of wanting to restore life to how it was before the departure of your loved one. This stage can often lead to finding self-fault and instilling blame instead of facing up to what has happened.

What to do: Feelings of helplessness and vulnerability are normal. Postponing the inevitable is unfortunately not an option, but you can forgive others around you, forgive the world and forgive yourself. Unfortunately, bad things do happen, but it’s how you deal with them moving forward that matters. Constant negative feelings of blame will only make you feel worse and prevent you from dealing with the loss that you’ve endured.

Grief stage four: Depression

Feeling depressed is common when mourning a loss. This will usually occur a few months after a death when the funeral is over and it seems that those around you are beginning to move on. You may experience feelings of reflection and sadness.

What to do: Spending time with loved ones and getting encouragement from others is incredibly helpful at this stage of grieving. Sometimes what you’ll really need most is a hug.

Grief stage five: Hope & acceptance

Learning to deal with the reality of your situation in a positive way is one of the final stages of grief. Acceptance doesn’t mean that you are cured of pain, as there are good and bad days to come, some may be harder to deal with than others, but trying to maintain a hopeful state of mind will help you most.

One of the hardest feelings to deal with in this stage is guilt over feeling happy, but looking forward and getting ‘back into reality’ is the best possible way to move forward. You will most probably be suffering, but the heart-wrenching pain will have faded. Acceptance simply means finding the will to move on from the pain and suffering you’ve endured.

hope and acceptance

Other common feelings of grief

  • Pain
  • Guilt
  • Self-reconstruction

What if I don’t feel any of these emotions?

Then that’s ok too. There is no set pattern or way of grieving, some people may get to the acceptance stage far quicker than others, some may skip the depression stage, this is just a basic guideline on how to deal with some of the feelings you may have been experiencing. Please keep the following in mind:

  • There is no time limit to the grieving process
  • Your grief process is unique to you
  • Grief has its own rhythm and may hit you unexpectedly

Don’t forget to carry on living. Just because the life of someone you love is over, doesn’t mean that the remainder of your life needs to be miserable. Make plans, experience life, make the most of the loved ones that remain and appreciate every good moment, as this can often make up for the times of suffering.

ISCA Funeral Services

At ISCA Funerals, we provide thoughtful and caring funeral services across The South West and provide thoughtful guides and advice as well as a 24-hour helpline helps to put minds at ease by offering our help when it is most required.

We are experienced funeral directors based in Exeter and specialise in helping people through the grieving process by providing unique, thoughtful and low-cost funerals. If you need assistance with anything our helpline is available to call 24/7. For enquiries, please contact us today.

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