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What You Didn’t Know About the Seven Stages of Grief

Posted on August 15th, 2020

Grieving is a natural reaction; it’s the way that we process the loss of something or someone important to us. The most common grief we experience is when we have lost a loved one; this could be through death or a breakup/divorce. It’s how we process an exceptional and devastating change in our lives and most of us will, at some stage, in our lives experience it.

In the medical and mental health industry, grief is usually categorized into seven stages. These include:

  • Shock/disbelief
  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Guilt
  • Depression
  • Acceptance

If you’re going through a divorce or breakup, then you’ve probably heard about these stages. However, there is much more to the grieving process than simply going on a journey through the steps and coming out unscathed on the other side. Grief is a highly complicated and entirely personal experience.

If your relationship is over, then you’re about to start on your own journey on grief. You will be dealing with the loss of your loved one’s friendship, company, and more. The only way forward is understanding as much as you can about grieving and allow yourself to be transported down this path to ultimate healing.

These are the things you may not have known about the seven stages of grief:

It started out as five stages

The seven stages that are widely used today to deal with grief were originally only made up of five stages. These stages are known as the Kübler-Ross model. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross wrote a book titled “On Death and Dying”, which she based on her work in a palliative care organization. Kübler-Ross spent time with patients that had a terminal illness and studied how they reacted to the inevitability of their death. At the time, she created five stages of grief including shock/disbelief and denial, anger, bargaining and guilt, depression, and acceptance.

Later on, the model was modified and separated shock/disbelief from the denial stage and bargaining from guilt. This was to encompass a more holistic process of grief that applied more realistically to those experiencing the loss someone they love, instead of the impending loss of their own life.

It’s not linear

There’s a common misconception that those who are grieving will proceed through the stages in a linear fashion. This may be the case in some instances, but most people will find that they experience grief in less of a step-by-step process and rather more like an elongated rollercoaster of emotions. In fact, towards the end of her career, Kübler-Ross herself wrote that grief is not meant to happen in a predictable, linear fashion and that she felt like her grief stages had been largely misunderstood.

You might not experience all the stages

People have their own personal experiences of grief and how we handle it is completely dependent on our own set of coping mechanisms. Many people don’t experience all the different stages of grief. In fact, you may even only experience one or two of the stages. It’s important that you don’t expect your grieving process to follow exactly along the parameters set out by the stages.

You could experience stages more than once

We’ve already discussed that this is not a linear process and in the same way that some people may skip a few stages, others may actually experience these stages more than once. It’s perfectly normal, for example, for people that feel overwhelmed in the anger stage to go back to being in denial. Your personal grief journey is individual, and you shouldn’t be hard on yourself if you find that you have regressed somewhat. Read more about that here

You may even add extra stages

The thing with the seven-stage model is that it doesn’t account for the in-between moments that people go through during grief. In fact, at Naked Divorce, the grief model for breakups and divorce actually has 10 stages, not including the initial shock stage. You could find that you feel ashamed or humiliated at some point in your breakup and this can definitely be another stage in your grief journey. The model is not set in stone and you might find that you experience it completely differently to others.

There’s no time limit

When seeking realistic truths about grief and how we process it, it’s essential that you accept that it isn’t a race to the finish line. You shouldn’t try to get through all the stages as quickly as possible. Trying to heal too quickly often leads to bottled up emotions that are not properly dealt with and that could set you back later down the line. Grieving has no time limit and some people could take just a few months, whereas others could take years. In fact, there is a condition called prolonged grief (formerly known as complicated grief) which is when a person takes more than a year to process a loss and they could stay in the depression stage for a very long time before taking an upward turn.

Naked Divorce and grief

If you’re going through a breakup or divorce, then it’s essential that you know you don’t have to do it alone. Naked Divorce was created to help people just like you to navigate the stages of grief in a healthy way that enables you to not just heal but to find realistic solutions on how you can move forward with your life. Our programs are the most effective in our field around the world and they have been tried and tested successfully everywhere from New York to South Africa. There’s absolutely no shame in reaching out and we are here to help you on the journey to a bright and exciting future.

Read more about stages of grief here…

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