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What are the five stages of grief?

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Quick Answer

The five stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Each emotion is a response to the death of a loved one or one's own imminent death.

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Full Answer

The five stages of grief are all normal responses to death or loss. They may happen in any order and may include additional emotions.

Denial, the first emotion, is a defense mechanism that protects against the emotional shock or pain of death. Following denial is anger, during which intense emotions are projected onto others. For example, the anger may be directed at the doctor who diagnosed a loved one's terminal illness.

In the bargaining stage, feelings of helplessness are accompanied by regrets. One might have thoughts such as, "We should have noticed the signs earlier." People may make pleas to a higher power, such as, "I promise never to lie if my loved one survives this illness." Depression follows bargaining. During this stage, feelings of loss, sadness and regret take hold.

The final stage of grief is acceptance. In this stage, terminally ill patients or their loved ones come to terms with the inevitable. During the acceptance stage, people allow themselves to feel their grief and emotions fully.

The concept of the five stages of grief, also known as the Kubler-Ross Model, is based on the observations of psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. Her 1969 book, "On Death and Dying," was informed by her work with the terminally ill.

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