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What are the common stages of grief?

In her 1969 book, "On Death and Dying," Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross outlined five stages of grief that most people can expect to experience when facing a terminal illness or dealing with death. Those stages are:

  1. Denial: In the first stage, there is an outright refusal to accept the circumstances. Often, it causes the bereaved to pull away from family and friends
  2. Anger: In the second stage, anger may be directed at the circumstances, the world, the person who died or others
  3. Bargaining: In the third stage, bereaved individuals attempt to make "deals" with God or another higher power to ease their pain, or reverse the loss altogether
  4. Depression: In the fourth stage, there is typically depression and feelings of numbness
  5. Acceptance: In the fifth and final stages, the bereaved is finally able to accept that the loss has occurred and to move on

There are other variations of Kubler-Ross' stages of grief put forth by other psychologists, but most of them retain a similar framework.

These stages are simply an educated idea of how grief tends to play out, not a rigid rulebook. If you skip a stage altogether, then you skip a stage -- no one will make you go back and start over.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.