The Five Stages of Grief
When someone experiences a major loss, he or she begins a unique grief journey. The process toward recovery takes time and involves a number of predictable stages. These are necessary steps as a person seeks a healthy way to cope with loss. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, in her seminal work, On Death and Dying, suggests there are five stages of grief. These are not necessarily experienced linearly, but may overlap. The stages, popularly known by the acronym DABDA, include:
- Denial — One of the first reactions is denial, wherein the survivor imagines a false, preferable reality.
- Anger — When the individual recognizes that denial cannot continue, it becomes frustrated, especially at proximate individuals. Certain psychological responses of a person undergoing this phase would be: "Why me? It's not fair!"; "How can this happen to me?"; '"Who is to blame?"; "Why would God let this happen?".
- Bargaining — The third stage involves the hope that the individual can avoid a cause of grief. Usually, the negotiation for an extended life is made with a higher power in exchange for a reformed lifestyle. Other times, they will use anything valuable against another human agency to extend or prolong the life. People facing less serious trauma can bargain or seek compromise.
- Depression — "I'm so sad, why bother with anything?"; "I'm going to die soon so what's the point?"; "I miss my loved one, why go on?" During the fourth stage, the individual becomes saddened by the certainty of death. In this state, the individual may become silent, refuse visitors and spend much of the time mournful and sullen.
- Acceptance — "It's going to be okay."; "I can't fight it, I may as well prepare for it." In this last stage, individuals embrace mortality or inevitable future, or that of a loved one, or other tragic event. People dying may precede the survivors in this state, which typically comes with a calm, retrospective view for the individual, and a stable condition of emotions.
Kübler-Ross later expanded her model to include any form of personal loss, such as the death of a loved one, the loss of a job or income, major rejection, the end of a relationship or divorce, drug addiction, incarceration, the onset of a disease or chronic illness, a diagnosis of infertility, and even minor losses.
Coping with Loss
Coping with loss is often a difficult journey. The resources below are for individuals experiencing a death-related loss or for those seeking to help others. The “Grief Process” section is a good place to start. Other sections address issues more specifically. Resources are compiled by the Association for Death Education and Counseling.
Cultural Differences in Mourning
Death of a Child (infant, child, adolescent, adult child)
Death of a Friend
Death of a Grandchild
Death of a Grandparent
Death of a Parent
Death of a Sibling
Death of a Spouse or Partner
Funerals and Memorials
Grief Process: What to Expect & Self-Care
Grief Process: Gender Differences
Holidays & Special Days
How to Help Someone Who is Dying
How to Help Someone Who is Grieving
Natural Disasters, Terrorism and War
Right to Die/Physician-Assisted Suicide
Unrecognized Loss (Disenfranchised Grief)
Violence and Traumatic Death
Devotions for the Grieving
- The Bow in the Cloud, by John R. MacDuff - 31 days of devotions, designed specifically to comfort the grieving Christian.
- The Night Watches, by John R. MacDuff - The grieving Christian can find great comfort through a deeper knowledge of God: His attributes, His character, His promises, His sympathy, His provision; and this section of 31 chapters, most shorter than two pages, is well suited for the early days of grief.
- A Book for the Bereaved, by John R. MacDuff
- Other writings from John R. MacDuff
- Devotions for Those Who Grieve: Selections From Morning and Evening, by Charles Spurgeon
- Christ in the Psalms - Henry Law skillfully presents the faith-building, grief-healing, and soul-sustaining comfort that is to be found in the book of Psalms. Through these devotional writings, he extends a warm hand, lifting us up, and inviting us into the very heart of God.
- Free Daily Devotions from GriefShare - GriefShare provides free, daily devotionals to grieving people for a whole year. I have just started my subscription, but so far they look good. However, this is only part of what they do. Be sure to click on their Home button to find out about their group ministries.