What Are the Steps of Grief?

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The stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. The stages may not occur in order, and the stages can last for months or years after the loss.

Denial is considered the first stage of grief. Denial is characterized by disbelief and emotional numbness. Anger, the second stage of grief, may be directed at any number of people or circumstances. For instance, some people become angry at the doctors or nurses providing care, or they may become angry at themselves or a higher power as a result of the loss.

Bargaining is the stage where people focus on what could have been done to prevent the loss, or what the person could have done for the ill person while they were healthy. For instance, a daughter may feel extreme guilt about becoming impatient with an ill parent while they were healthy. Bargaining is particularly common for those with relatives or friends that have been diagnosed with a terminal illness.

Depression can be mild or severe enough to interfere with daily activities. Acceptance occurs when the person is able to cope with the loss, or when the person can face the reality of a terminal illness diagnosis. Acceptance may not be experienced by all people who suffer a loss, and the stages of grief may reoccur for some. Each of the stages may last for an indeterminate period of time.