3 Stages of Grief

Loss, injury or illness can cause overwhelming grieving emotions.
Loss, injury or illness can cause overwhelming grieving emotions. (Image: stress image by Andrii IURLOV from Fotolia.com)

When people suffer a loss, they undergo a grieving process that helps them deal with their loss or fear. The death of a loved one or pet, an accident, an illness or a life-altering condition can cause people to grieve. Each stage of grief is defined by a dominant emotion. The grieving process is not set in stone: some people may not suffer through each stage, and others may progress through the stages in different orders.


Denying the existence of a loss or downplaying the severity of a situation is one way in which people defend themselves against their emotions. They may isolate themselves to avoid discussing a loss, or they may refuse to believe that the situation is real. Denial is accompanied by emotional numbness, in which an individual feels detached or emotionally distant. (See References 2) Denial is a common means of self-defense because it allows people to shove their emotions away and pretend that an unpleasant situation does not exist.

Anger and Depression

People who suffer from grief often become very angry at the world around them. They try to place blame or have outbursts of anger at others. This can cause strain on relationships, despite the fact that they may not realize heir anger stems from grief. A feeling of hopelessness can also define this stage of grief. (See References 2) People can feel overwhelmed by their emotions, or they can feel lost, alone and helpless. People in this stage may suffer from depression and can become withdrawn.


When anger, despair, sadness and depression fade away, people can begin to accept their losses and move forward with their lives. At this point, overpowering emotions lessen and individuals begin to feel hope again. They accept their loss and begin to realize that they can put their grief behind them. They may even look for positive outcomes or ways they might be wiser or stronger because of their experience.

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