The five traditional stages of grief were outlined by Swiss psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross (1967), although she did not like the idea that these feelings would always occur 1 through 5 in that order.
In her book, On Death and Dying (1969), she said she was inspired to work on the subject by the time she spent with terminally ill patients. At the University of Chicago medical school, she conducted seminars that became her book. The stages have been widely accepted by social workers and the public but at the same time some aspects of it are critiqued by researchers.
1. Denial. Shock is replaced with the feeling of “this can’t be happening to me.”
2. Anger. The emotion confusion that results from this lose may lead to anger and finding someone or something to blame. (Schadenfreude may be lurking here, as the person or persons at whom one is angry may have disregarded one's advice. The anger is mixed with "I told you so".)
3. Bargaining. The next stage may result in trying to negotiate with one’s self (or a higher power) to attempt to change what has occurred.
4. Depression. A period of sadness and loneliness then will occur in which a person reflects on their grief and loss. (There may be guilt at feelings of anger in #2.)
5. Acceptance. After time feeling depressed about their loss, a person will eventually be at peace with what happened.
In 2011, J. Wright, a registered critical care nurse, offered her own interpretation of Kübler-Ross and arrived at seven stages that may take days or weeks (and, again, may not occur in exactly this neat order):
1. Shock & Denial. Numbed disbelief occurs after the devastation of loss. A person may deny the reality or gravity of their loss to avoid pain. Shock provides emotional protection from being overwhelmed all at once.
2. Pain & Guilt. Shock wears off. Replaced with pain. Social workers say it’s important to experience the pain fully.
3. Anger and Bargaining. Frustration leads to anger that if not controlled may permanently damage relationships.
4. Depression, Reflection, & Loneliness. Long period of sad reflection as the magnitude of the loss sets in.
5. Upward Turn. Life becomes calmer, more organized as one starts to adjust to life with the loss that occurred.
6. Reconstruction & Working Through. As a person starts to become more functional, realistic solutions seem possible for life after the loss.
7. Acceptance & Hope. The last stage – a person learns to accept and deal with the reality of their situation. A person is more future-oriented and learns to cope.