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Stages of Dying and Grieving

Morgan Shell
Sinclair Community College
Marie Baker
22 November 2015

Elisabeth Kbler-Ross wrote On Death and Dying to identify the stages an individual will
experience after being diagnosed with a terminal illness. This book sparked interest in the
process of dying, but was often criticized. Others often questioned whether individuals would
experience the stages in the exact order she wrote about. Her stages of dying can also be applied
to other life-changing situations, such as the death of a loved one. Kbler-Ross five stages of
dying are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
Denial and Isolation
According to Kbler-Ross, the first stage of the grieving process is denial. Denial is
described as blocking external events from awareness. This occurs shortly after learning that a
person has passed away or when a person is diagnosed with a terminal illness. If the person has a
terminal illness, denial occurs when they reject the reality of impending death. Denial is seen
as a defense mechanism. A defense mechanism is an unconscious process that protects an
individual from unacceptable or painful ideas. During this stage, the individual may see this time
as a bad dream and that it will eventually end. Being in denial helps the individual deal with
the initial shock of hearing news of a death. It is a normal reaction to death and helps us cope
with the loss. Eventually as the stage of denial comes to a close, many emotions, such as anger,
The second stage of the model is Anger. Anger is a feeling of tension or hostility. Anger
occurs when the reality of the loss arises again. The individual may be angry at the loss of a
loved one. They may feel that the situation is unfair, so they become angry. Also, the individual

may feel vulnerable, so they use anger to express this feeling. The individual may direct this
anger towards other people, such as family or even strangers, or objects. Also, the individual may
become angry with the higher power that they believe in. This anger may lead them to question
their own beliefs.
If a loved one has been diagnosed with a terminal illness, the individual may become
angry with that person. The individual most likely realizes that it is not the loved ones fault, but
the anger may stem from resentment toward that person for causing them pain. Also, the
individual may feel resentment toward the doctor or medical staff for not being able to treat the
illness successfully. As for the individual diagnosed with the terminal illness, they may feel like
their situation is unfair and being to question why it is happening to them.
Bargaining is the third stage. Bargaining is described as an attempt between two parties to
agree on terms and to resolve a conflict. In this case, the individual may begin to bargain with the
higher power that they believe in to reverse what has happen. If the loved one has already
passed away, the individual may ask for them back in return for a specific change in lifestyle.
An individual may also bargain to regain control of a situation where their loved one has
been diagnosed with a terminal illness. This may be with the higher power, to promise a lifestyle
change in order for the loved one to be cured. Also, the bargaining may be within the self.
They may consider what could have been done to prevent the illness. This stage also makes the
individual consider their relationship with the loved one. They may question if they treated their
loved one better and if they didnt, they may wonder if that worsened their condition.

Depression occurs after the individual realizes that anger and bargaining will not change
the loss of the specific person. This stage does not mean that the individual has a mental disorder
or that they are clinically depressed. During this stage, the individual may become withdrawn,
experience intense sadness, or even have changes in sleep or eating habits. The individual is
finally facing the reality of the loss and that they are unable to change it. They also may blame
themselves for what has occurred during this stage. The emotions that the individual will
experience in this stage are needed in order to heal. When facing a terminal illness, the individual
may give up on what they need to do to stay alive. They may feel helpless or question why they
should try to stay alive.
After the stage of depression, acceptance occurs. Acceptance is the individuals assent to
the reality of a situation. If the individual has a terminal illness, they will come to terms with the
fact that they are dying. This stage occurs if the individual has successfully processed the
previous stages and the emotions they have faced during them. Some individuals may never
reach this stage of grieving. The individual will accept what has occurred and that they cannot
change the situation. Reaching this stage does not indicate that the individual is okay or that
they no longer have negative feelings about the situation. The individual may now be able to
move on with their lives and learn to live without the loved one.
Kbler-Ross created this model of the stages of dying as a framework to help individuals
understand what they experiencing and how to deal with the emotions that they will experience.
Individuals diagnosed with a terminal illness will experience these stages, and it may be in a

different way than an individual who has lost a loved one. The individual may not experience the
stages of grief in this order if they experience all of them. They also may go back and forth
between stages. Also, more time may be spent in one stage than what is experienced in another.
Everyone experiences emotions about death and dying differently, this model provides an
explanation or model for what the individual may be experiencing.

Axelrod, J. (2006). The 5 Stages of Loss and Grief. Retrieved from http://psychcentral.com/
Hibbert, C. (2015). Dealing with Grief: The 5 Stages of Grief. Retrieved from
King, L. (2012). Experience psychology (2nd ed). McGraw-Hill Professional Publishing.
Retrieved on October 20, 2015.
Patricelli, K. (2015). Stages of Grief Models: Kbler-Ross. Retrieved from http://www.amhc.org/