What You Should Know About the Stages of Grief

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The following is resource guide for looking into your feelings and finding a sense of assurance in these very heavy and sad times.


At some point in everyone’s life, there will be at least one encounter with grief. It may come in many forms: loss through death, job loss, ending a relationship or any other change that alters your life.

Grief is personal

Grief is not neat. It doesn’t follow any timeline or schedule. You may find yourself crying, becoming angry, withdrawing from others or suffering from a plain empty feeling. There is nothing wrong with these feeling. Everyone grieves differently. There are common states of grief.

The first theory is the five stages of grief. It’s not the only one.  Others exist including the seven stages.

Grief does not follow any particular order!

The first five stages of grief are:

Not everyone will experience all of the stages.

Grief is different for every person. You may begin coping with loss in the bargaining stage and find yourself in anger or denial next. You can remain in one stage for months and skip others.

Stage 1: Denial

Grief is an overwhelming emotion. It’s not unusual to respond to the intense and sudden feelings by pretending the loss or change isn’t happening. Denying it gives you time to more gradually absorb and process it. This is common and helps numb you to the intensity of the situation.

When you move out of denial, you’ll be confronted with sorrow that you’ve denied. This can be difficult.

Example of the denial stage

  • Death of a loved one: “Their not really gone”

Stage 2: Anger

Anger is a mask. Anger is hiding emotions and pain. Anger may be redirected at other people, even those you love. 

You may aim your anger at inanimate objects. Your brain knows the object of your anger isn’t to blame, but your feelings in that moment are too intense to feel that.

Anger may mask itself in feelings, bitterness or resentment. It may not be rage or fury but something may hang on to your emotions. When anger subsides, you will become rational with emotions you’ve pushed aside.

Example of the anger stage

  • Death of a loved one: “If they cared for themselves, this wouldn’t have happened.”

Stage 3: Bargaining

In grieving, you feel helpless. It’s not uncommon to look for ways to regain control of yourself. In the bargaining stages, what if, and if only statements cross your mind.

It’s common too try to make a deal with God in return for your relief. 

Bargaining is a defense against your emotions. It helps delay the hurt and sadness.

Example of the bargaining stage

  • Death of a loved one: “If I had called that night, they wouldn’t be gone.”

Stage 4: Depression

Depression is a quiet stage of grief.

In the early stages, you isolate yourself from others. It’s a coping mechanism for dealing with your loss.

Depression is not easy. Depression can be messy and overwhelming like a heavy fog.

If you can’t escape depression, see a therapist to help you during this period of sadness.

Example of the depression stage

  • Death of a loved one: “What am I to do without them\?”

Stage 5: Acceptance

Acceptance is not happy or upliftings. It doesn’t mean you’ve moved on. It means you’ve accepted it. You have come to understand what it means in your life.

Acceptance is a way to see that more good days are ahead. There are still going to be bad days, but you’re OK with that.

Example of the acceptance stage

  • Death of a loved one: “I’m fortunate to have had so many wonderful years with them, and they will always be in my memories.”

The 7 stages of grief

Add two more stages to the first five. Here are the two:

Reconstruction— The process of putting your life back together, moving forward.

Pain and guilt— Feeling the loss is unbearable.

The takeaways

  • Understanding grief: no one experiences the same thing. 
  • Grief is personal
  • You may grieve for years.

If you decide you need help coping with the feelings and changes, its okay to see a mental health professional.


Robert L Woods

Robert L Woods

I am a personal finance and investment educator who’s passion is to teach financial literacy to my community to give them financial empowerment so they can control their own destiny.

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About Me

Robert L. Woods is the retired partner of the Institute For Fiduciary Education (www.ifecorp.com) that provided investment seminars for public and private pension funds, endowments and institutional fund managers. He spent 28 years working for the State of California, as a budget and financial analyst which includes 16 years as an Investment Officer for the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS). At CalSTRS, he established it as one of the nation’s first institutional home loan programs with a down payment assistance component. He also spent 13 years on the Board of Trustees for the Sacramento County Employees Retirement System (SCERS). He was a Trustee with the University of California, Davis, Cal Aggie Alumni Association and a member of the Chancellor’s Council on Community & Diversity. He is a Life Member: Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc., Theta Gamma Sigma Chapter, Sacramento, CA.

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