Stages of Loss

The following is adapted from materials written by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, who performed seminal research on the stages through which people may pass when confronted with a loss, either their own or another's. Depending on individual needs, a person may stay in one stage for a long time, move back and forth from one stage to another, or move through each stage in the order listed below.

  • Denial: This may be expressed by feeling nothing or insisting there has been no change. It is an important stage and gives people a "time out" to reorganize. People in this stage need understanding and time.
  • Anger: Often, after denying a situation, people turn around and react. This reacting can be defined as anger. It can be expressed in nightmares and fears and in disruptive behavior. People in this stage need opportunities to express anger in a positive and healthy way.
  • Bargaining: The purpose of bargaining is to regain a loss. Consequently, a promise is made to do something in order to get something in return. Bargaining may be expressed through threats, tantrums or demands. It can also be expressed in angelic behavior or perfectionist tendencies.
  • Depression: This sets in when it is realized that anger and bargaining will not work and one begins to understand that a change may be permanent. This is a stage of grieving for whomever or whatever is lost.
  • Acceptance: Acknowledgement of a loss - a period of calm after release of emotions, demonstrated by lifting of sadness and a willingness to keep living.
  • Hope: Evidenced by a revitalization of energy, a renewed interest in old friends, the development of new friendships, and the return of a sense of humor.