The five stages, denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance are a part of the framework that makes up our learning to live with the one we lost. They are tools to help us frame and identify what we may be feeling. But they are not stops on some linear timeline in grief. Not everyone goes through all of them or in a prescribed order.The stages have evolved since their introduction and they have been very misunderstood over the past three decades. They were never meant to help tuck messy emotions into neat packages. They are responses to loss that many people have, but there is not a typical response to loss as there is no typical loss. Our grief is as individual as our lives.
T = To accept the reality of the lossE = Experience the pain of the lossA = Adjust to the new environment without the lost objectR = Reinvest in the new reality
Stage 1: "Acclimation and Adjustment"
In this first stage, the tasks largely involve dealing with the initial emotional shock and disorientation often brought by death:
adjusting to changes brought by the loss
functioning appropriately in daily life
keeping emotions and behaviors in check
Stage 2: "Emotional Immersion and Deconstruction"
Although the initial impact of the death has passed, emotions are often deeply felt during this stage. The bereaved face and have to deal with the changes that the death has brought, and often challenges to their beliefs about the way things should be. This stage incorporates the most active aspects of grief work. It's not that this stage is any more intense than the first stage -- in fact, it's difficult to imagine that anything could be more intense than the period immediately following a loss. But during this stage, people are likely to become deeply immersed in their feelings, and very internally-focused. It's also quite common for the bereaved to undergo a "deconstruction" of their values and beliefs, as they question why their loved one was taken from them. The tasks associated with Stage 2 include:
contending with reality
development of insight
reconstructing personal values and beliefs
acceptance and letting go
Stage 3: "Reclamation and Reconciliation"
In this final stage many issues about the death have been resolved, and the bereaved more fully begin to reclaim and move on with their lives. This stage is generally thought to be one marked by "recovery" from grief. But the loss of someone close leaves a permanent mark on people's lives in the sense that things can't be restored to the way they were before the death. However, people can begin to rebuild, creating a new life for themselves and re-engaging with the world around them. As this stage ends, the bereaved become reconciled to the death itself, and the changes it's brought to their lives. Perhaps most important, they begin to live in the present, rather than the past, re-establish who they are in the world, and plan a future. The primary tasks of this stage are:
development of social relations
decisions about changes in life style
renewal of self-awareness
Acceptance of responsibility