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The 5 Stages of Grief

Grief is the body’s natural response to loss. Bereavement (a period of mourning after a loss)  and despair are natural reactions as well. Loss can come in many forms, including the loss of a loved one. Some people grieve other losses, like the loss of a home, a pet, an idea, or an opportunity. It is okay to feel upset or sad over a loss. 

Below are the stages of grief and grief reactions. These can help you identify where you are at and how you can help yourself. It is important to know that these stages are non-linear, meaning they do not necessarily happen in a certain order and may happen in any period of time after the initial shock of the loss. 

Sometimes, grief reactions will feel like they happen all at once in secession. Ultimately, going through grief is normal, and it is healthy to process and acknowledge your grief.

Denial and Isolation

The denial of loss can also be the denial of details about the loss. For example, if someone finds out their loved one was in a car crash, they may think “No, I’ve just spoken to them, they were fine an hour ago”. Denial can also mean complete denial of the whole event, leading to isolation from people who bring facts forward that contradict the denial. 

Some people in extreme denial will pretend the person who is gone may still be around, as if a loved one is still living or just far away. Extreme denial may call for therapy or other reinforcement to ensure that this individual can process the grief. 


Anger is another natural reaction when processing grief. There could be anger at a loved one for dying, at another individual if they were involved, at a religious higher power, at others in general, or at society. 

Anger can be expressed in any way. However, if that anger is beginning to harm others, it is time for someone to step in and a therapist or law enforcement to get involved. Though it is natural to feel anger when grieving, it is not okay to harm others, oneself, or property. 


Bargaining means that a person is hassling with themselves over a loss. They may bargain that if they do something specific, they will regain a part of that loss. They may also bargain that the loss means something positive can come from it. Bargaining can be a coping method, but it can also lead to problems. 

For those who struggle with addiction, bargaining can seem like a way to say “I am really struggling with this, so I deserve that drink, or I need that hit.” The truth is that bargaining cannot change the loss. Bargaining is the brain’s way to come to terms with the loss, but constantly bargaining over irrelevant things does not help a person recover from their grief. 


Depression is the consistent feeling of sadness, hopelessness, and fatigue. Depression can look different for many people. Some people sleep a lot to cope, while others will put on a brave face and try to appear as if they are okay. 

Bereavement from the loss and depression can go hand in hand and may last a long time. Finding therapy, close companionship, and keeping some kind of routine relating to self-care is very important when struggling with depression. 


Acceptance of the loss is typically the last step. One may feel defeat as part of this acceptance, but overall, acceptance is a positive step toward coping with grief. 

However, just because one accepts a loss does not mean they will no longer experience any of the other stages of grief. There are still times a person will feel the impact of the loss again later. Finding therapy, closure, or positive coping strategies is still important after the acceptance of a loss. 

Notable Reactions to Grief Beyond the Stages

There are other reactions of note beyond the common five stages of grief. 

  • Anticipatory Grief: Anticipatory grief is what a person will feel before the actual loss. They may still go through all the stages of grief. Cancer patients and their loved ones display the most common examples of anticipatory grief. 
  • Grief from Suicide: Suicide, in particular, can cause an extra stage where loved ones wonder why or how it could happen. This is okay, it is natural, and it does not change it. This period of wondering why and how is also non-linear and can happen at any time. 
  • Trauma and Grief: Severe trauma from the loss may lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or even cardiac arrest. Trauma may leave mental health in tatters and require medical attention from a doctor or therapist. 

It’s natural to experience grief and loss. A person may also experience more than the typical five stages of grief. Grief reactions are non-linear, meaning that they can happen at any time and in any order. It’s not uncommon for those who experience loss to have a certain level of trauma from the loss, especially if it happened in a particularly traumatic way. If you’re a person struggling with loss, grief, trauma, and addiction, visit us at RECO Intensive. At RECO Intensive, we understand that loss will lead to a series of feelings and trauma that no one wants to experience. When addiction stems from grief, it can be particularly hard to cope with and live with. Our professional staff and experienced alumni can help you create a treatment plan that is specifically catered to you and your needs. Call RECO Intensive today at (561) 464-6533. Let’s get back to a brighter future. 

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