Expert Explains the 5 Stages of Grieving When Someone Passes Away

When someone we know passes away, it elicits a slew of emotions and reactions.

It's not like there's just one way we deal with such immense loss. In addition to all kinds of weird and mixed feelings, there are our behaviors, too.

Shutterstock: Two young women hugging and crying sad and comforting

(via Unsplash)

"The coping style of the grieving individual, the relationship to the person who passed, or the way in which the person passed, can all affect the grieving process," UCLA's Dr. Nicole Hisaka tells Sweety High.

Going off of the Kübler-Ross grief model, Dr. Hisaka breaks down the five stages of grief below, and explains how each leads us to better coping with the death.


Typically, challenges occur accepting what has happened. We're left feeling confused, and it's usually fostered by a shock response. Comparing your "normal life" to the loss that has occurred can be too challenging to comprehend, so our defense mechanisms set in and we deny the reality of our situations. Despite the challenges of denial, it's actually a stepping stone necessary to survive the loss.

Crying girl being consoled by friend

(via Unsplash)



Following denial are typically feelings of anger, which can be directed both at blaming others or yourself for what happened. Anger is a secondary emotion to feelings of hurt or sadness. Oftentimes, our sadness comes across as irritability or frustration because it's hard to appropriately express ourselves during this time. People often ask, "Why me?" or use statements such as, "Life isn't fair; This only happens to me" to help make sense of their reality.



Often, after feeling angry, grievers experience bargaining, which is when they struggle to find meaning or make sense of the loss. "If you do this, I will change that" is a statement that can be used to engage in a false sense of hope. Bargaining is an effort to convince yourself that you can evade grieving through negotiation.



Typically, we associate grief with depression and assume everyone immediately feels this way. Depression occurs after the bargaining stage, when the griever has accepted what's occurred and understands they cannot change the situation and its permanence. Feelings of helplessness, hopelessness or being overwhelmed may occur as the reality settles in and the griever understands they don't have control over this situation.

couple fighting

(via Shutterstock)



Acceptance is the last stage of grief, when the griever has "worked through" their grief in the prior stages, has made meaning and acceptance of what has taken place, and is able to explore other ways of moving forward. Statements that acknowledge what happened and express hope regarding the future can be utilized during this stage—"My best friend passed away, and I am still going to be okay."

This time period is an acknowledgement of adjustment and readjustment of what happened and the current realities. But this doesn't mean you won't experience another challenging and sad day regarding the loss, because it's natural to feel sad at various points in your lifetime.


Are you dealing with the loss of a loved one? HERE's why seeing a therapist might be good for you.