The Six Stages of Grief And How To Deal With Them

For all of us, dealing with grief is one of the hardest things to do in life. Here, we look at how understanding the stages can positively impact you.

Recently I was listening to a podcast by grief experts David Kessler and Brene Brown on “Grief and Finding Meaning” and the way he describes grieving when someone you love passes, is beyond amazing. 

According to him, people tend to compare their grief with others but he says that when people ask him ‘what is the worst pain’ he answers with ‘yours is the worst pain”.  So, you have to face your grief and accept it as it is.

Grief and death is more or less a topic that no one wants to talk about, but sooner or later everyone will face the pain of losing someone they love. Therefore, I strongly recommend everyone who is facing grief to listen to this podcast

You will read about six stages of grief but keep in mind they are not written in stone and everyone faces them differently.


Who is David Kessler?

David Kessler is an author and grieving expert. He has published many books on grief. The main work is with psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross:  Life Lessons: Two Experts on Death and Dying Teach Us About the Mysteries of Life and Living, and On Grief & Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief Through the Five Stages of Grief

Kubler-Ross died in 2004 and in the podcast with Brown, Dr. Kessler praises his colleague by saying that it was an honor working with her. In their book On Grief and Grieving they wrote about five main stages everyone faces when it comes to grieving. Those five stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. 

But only after the death of his son, Dr. Kessler understood that it should be a sixth stage as well. 


Stages of Grief


The first stage of grief is denial. Denial helps us to survive the loss. People who are in this stage of grief find life meaningless. 

For people in the first stage of grief, the world seems meaningless and for them, life has no sense anymore. Denial helps people to cope with their loss and it serves as a self–defense mechanism.

In this stage you find it hard to accept that you lost an important person, and the reality shifts in this moment of loss. Hence, it takes time to accept the new reality.



After you pass the denial stage, you will face anger. When you finally accept that the beloved person passed away, you try to adjust to a new reality. In this stage your mind and body begin to deflect the pain and people tend to express their pain with anger. 

During this stage, people confront extreme emotional discomfort but anger seems to be a necessary stage of the healing process. In this process people tend to feel anger for their family members, friends, colleagues etc. 

According to Dr. Kessler and Dr. Kubler-Ross, the more anger you feel the more you will heal. 



When you pass the anger, you will face the third stage which happens to be bargaining. In this stage, people are willing to do everything to minimize the pain. 

When people are bargaining they find themselves asking ‘What if…’ or ‘If only…’ In this stage, you think a lot about what you could have done differently for your loved one not to die. 

You feel guilty and you may even bargain with the pain. You want to go back in time and try to find that cancer sooner or to stop the accident from happening. You may find yourself guilty and full of regrets.



When bargaining no longer feels as an option you will start to face the present situation. In this stage the sadness tends to grow.  You feel empty and sad. In this stage you might feel like this pain will never go away and you will never enjoy life again. 

You have to keep in mind that depression is a normal way to face the loss you had and you should not see it as a mental illness. Depression when you lose someone you love is the appropriate response to your loss.



The fifth stage according to Dr. Kessler and Kubler-Ross, is acceptance. This stage in no way means that you will not feel pain anymore, it just means that you accept your loss and no longer resist the reality of your situation. 

In this stage you don’t struggle to make something different. You will still feel sadness but other phases like denial, bargaining and anger are less likely to be present.


Finding Meaning

This is the stage that Dr. Kessler invented. In the podcast, I previously mentioned he says that after the death of his son, he thought that it should be another stage because only acceptance is not enough. To honor his dead son he wrote a book named Finding Meaning: The Sixth Stage of Grief where he shares his experience to help others who are experiencing loss. In this stage, you want to keep alive the memory of your beloved one. 

By finding meaning you want to go beyond grieving by trying to find meaning in your life.


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