Understanding Grief and Loss

By Julia Thomas

Updated January 02, 2019

Reviewer Deborah Horton

Everyone experiences grief differently. Many people who lose a friend or loved one experience several stages of grief as they deal with a loss. Psychologists who work with people as they grieve have noticed the ways that people cope with the loss. There are some commonalities including distinct stages such as denial, anger, and depression. There are a few more to name, but what you may not know is that these stages aren’t about the grief of someone dying, but rather something extremely different. Read on to find out what these stages

Types of Loss

Most people associate the word ‘grief’ with the sadness that surrounds the death of a loved one. Yet people can experience grief after many other losses, including a breakup, losing a job or a home, having a part of the body like an arm or leg removed, being diagnosed with a terminal illness, or having to drop out of college.

The Grief Process

People go through a number of stages when they lose a loved one. You may experience them in any order and any number of times. You may feel sad at the beginning, move on to anger, and then return to feeling sad. The crucial thing to remember is to take your time to grieve. Allow yourself to do it in own unique way.

What You Probably Don’t Know About Grief

Many people think that the stages of grief are about the loss of a loved one. However, they are actually related to people who aredying, rather than a personal loss. Dr. Kübler-Ross is credited with developing the stages of grief, but most people don’t realize that what she created was for people with terminal illness. She wrote a book called On Death and Dying. In this book, Dr. Kübler-Ross writes about the stages of death: denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Dr. Kübler-Ross interviews terminally ill patients and discusses how impending death affects a person. She writes about how the patient, their family, and loved ones cope with the loss.

She did not develop the stages to describe the stages of loss people go through when some dies, however, they are about what terminally ill people experience. The stage includes – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. After some time, people adopted these phases to apply to their personal loss, and they seem to fit well. Below you will find the stages of grief as a terminally ill person experiences them. They are also applicable to losing a loved one.