The stages of grief: why there may be more than 5 stages - and quotes to help you through them all

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There are traditionally five stages of grief - but one psychotherapist says she believes there are more

Grief is sadly something all of us will experience at some point in our lives. For many, it’s a very painful and difficult process, with some left struggling to speak about it. Everyone deals with grief in their own unique way, but there are some broad stages that are universal - and no matter what, everyone needs support to help them through these stages.

That’s why NationalWorld has spoken to Dipti Tait, psychotherapist and author of books about the topic, including Planet Grief. Here, she explains the various stages of grief, what they each mean and how they present themselves and the quotes that may give you comfort as you work your way through it.

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What is grief?

Grief is a reaction to loss. It tends to be associated with death, but can be linked to any kind of loss. This may be, for example, the loss of a relationship and therefore the loss of a life you had planned, the loss of work or the loss of a friendship. 

Tait says: “Grief is our brain’s way of dealing with loss. As human beings, we are all grieving something. We grieve loss of identity, loss of jobs and homes, the fast pace of technology, loss of truth in an ever-complex world, we grieve our shared ideals, our communities and our planet.”

She adds: “We start grieving change and loss from the moment we are born, as we move through different phases of our existence, we grieve what went before and what is to come.”

Tait also explains that she doesn’t believe people ever “get over” grief. Instead, you learn to live with it.  “It becomes part of you, and you can use it to help you heal and sometimes, it can also be used to fuel you in a positive way,” she says.

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There are various stages of grief that everyone will experience due to loss in their life.There are various stages of grief that everyone will experience due to loss in their life.
There are various stages of grief that everyone will experience due to loss in their life. | NationalWorld/Mark Hall

What are the stages of grief?

The five stages of grief were originally introduced by psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in her 1969 book On Death and Dying. They are not always experienced in the same order, or in a linear way, although they may be.

Here are the stages of grief with a brief explanation of each, as explained by Tait:

Denial: The initial stage where the person refuses to believe that the loss has occurred or that it’s happening.

Anger: As the reality of the loss sets in, the person may feel angry about what has happened and may direct that anger towards others, themselves, or even the person they have lost.

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Bargaining: The person may try to bargain with a higher power or even with themselves, in an attempt to change the outcome.

Depression: As the person begins to realise the full impact of the loss, they may feel a deep sense of sadness and despair.

Acceptance: The final stage, where the person accepts the reality of the loss and begins to move forward with their life.

Grief expert David Kessler then added a sixth stage in 2019, which is: 

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Meaning: After acceptance, the person may begin to find meaning in the loss and may start to look for ways to create a new normal.

Tait says through her work she has found that there are even more stages of grief. She outlines these below: 

Shock:  Absence of feelings. Shock and numbness are unavoidable in nearly every situation, even if we feel we have had time to prepare for the loss of a loved one.

Sadness:  An emptiness and an absence of feeling – filled with a hollow void.

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Guilt: Feeling as if you haven’t done enough and deep regret about things and imposter grief for being alive, or a survivor.

Loneliness: A feeling that nobody else shares the same pain and suffering, and one feels desperately disconnected and isolated.

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