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The Phases of Grief

Grief isn’t something you process overnight; in some ways, it’s something you may never fully “get over.” Rather, grief is a journey, and it can encompass a range of moods and reactions. As you mourn the loss of a loved one, it’s important to be prepared for shifting expressions of your grief.

To that end, there is a classic, five-stage model that maps out the grief journey. While your personal experience may not totally align with this model, it can nevertheless be a useful tool for charting your feelings.

The five classic phases of grief include:

1. Denial. In the denial phase, your grief is so fresh and so raw that you may feel like you’re in a state of shock. Those in the denial phase simply want to push forward and try to make it through each day, and they may not spend much time actually thinking about their feelings.

2. Anger. Next comes the anger phase, in which those who have lost a loved one may feel deserted, abandoned by God, or simply resentful over the time they’ve lost with their loved one. Anger is a good and healthy part of the grieving process.

3. Bargaining. In the bargaining phase, it may be tempting to try to “make a deal” with God or with the universe, hoping that you may wake up and find that your loved one’s death was all a dream. Bargaining is often accompanied by intense feelings of guilt.

4. Depression. A season of melancholy is to be expected from those who grieve. Depression may also feel like profound state of emptiness or meaninglessness.

5. Acceptance. Those who “accept” death may still feel quite sad, and this does not mean their grieving journey is over—but it does mean they have reached a healthy place of truly engaging with their feelings and being honest about how grief has impacted them.

No matter how your own grief journey unfolds, always remember: You are not alone in this season of trial.

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