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From Denial to Acceptance: The Stages of Grief (+Ways to Help)

From Denial to Acceptance The Stages of Grief and Ways to Help

Grief is an inevitable part of life. When we lose someone dear to us, we face an overwhelming wave of emotions that can be difficult to navigate. It is a natural and necessary process and, even though everyone goes through the process differently, the reality is that everyone goes through the same stages of grief. These five stages were first identified by psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in her book "On Death and Dying" and they are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Understanding the stages of grief can help us make sense of our feelings and find ways to cope.

The Five Stages of Grief May Give us Insight  into our Emotions


Denial is usually the beginning of the stages of grief. It's a defense mechanism that helps us to cope with overwhelming emotions by rejecting the reality of our loss. We may find it hard to believe that our loved one is really gone and continue to act as if they are still present in our lives. This can manifest in different ways such as constantly expecting them to walk through the door or refusing to accept their death.

However, the denial stage is only temporary and serves as a buffer for the intense emotions that come with grief. It gives us time to process and accept the reality of our loss slowly.

  • Behavioral Characteristics: Avoiding discussions about the loss, feeling detached from reality, exhibiting shock or disbelief.
  • Emotional Characteristics: Numbness, confusion, and avoidance.

Ways to Help:

  • Acknowledge and accept your feelings. It's okay to feel numb or not ready to face the loss.
  • Talk about your feelings with a trusted friend or family member.
  • Seek support from a therapist or grief counselor.


As we start to accept the reality of our loss, anger may begin to surface. This can be directed at ourselves, others, or even the person we have lost for leaving us. We may feel resentment towards those who are still alive while our loved one is gone or become angry at any small inconvenience in our lives.

It's important to understand that this anger is a normal part of the grieving process and should not be suppressed. Instead, it should be acknowledged and expressed in healthy ways.

  • Behavioral Characteristics: Irritability, outbursts of anger, blaming others.
  • Emotional Characteristics: Frustration, resentment, and bitterness.

Ways to Help:

  • Allow the expression of anger without judgment.
  • Suggest physical activities such as exercise to release pent-up energy.
  • Offer a listening ear and validate their feelings.


The stage of bargaining involves trying to make sense of what has happened by negotiating with a higher power or trying to find ways to reverse the loss. This may involve making promises or offering sacrifices in exchange for a different outcome.

Bargaining is often an attempt to regain control in a situation where we feel helpless and out of control. It can also be a coping mechanism to deal with the intense emotions of grief.

  • Behavioral Characteristics: Making deals with a higher power, seeking advice from others, attempting to correct past mistakes related to the loss.
  • Emotional Characteristics: Hopeful, desperate, and anxious.

Ways to Help:

  • Allow them space and time for their bargaining process without judgment.
  • Remind them that what happened was not their fault and there is no need to bargain for a different outcome.
  • Encourage them to find other ways to cope with their loss and regain a sense of control, such as seeking therapy or joining a support group.


The stage of depression involves coming to terms with the reality of the loss and feeling overwhelmed by deep sadness. This is often considered the most difficult stage of grief, as it can feel like there is no end in sight.

However, it's important to understand that depression is not the same as clinical depression and is a normal part of the stages of grief. It's also important to allow oneself to fully experience this stage without trying to rush through it.

  • Behavioral Characteristics: Withdrawing from social activities, changes in sleep patterns and appetite, feeling unmotivated or lacking interest in things once enjoyed.
  • Emotional Characteristics: Intense feelings of sadness, loneliness, and despair.

Ways to Help:

  • Offer a listening ear and validate their feelings without trying to fix them.
  • Encourage self-care practices such as exercise, eating well, and getting enough rest.
  • Avoid judgment or pressure for the person to "move on" from their depression. Allow them space to grieve at their own pace.


The final stage of grief is acceptance, where one comes to terms with the reality of the loss and begins to move forward with their life. This does not mean forgetting about the loss or being completely free from pain, but rather finding a way to adjust to the new normal.

  • Behavioral Characteristics: Beginning to make plans for the future, re-engaging in social activities and hobbies, finding purpose or meaning in life again.
  • Emotional Characteristics: A sense of peace and calmness, acceptance of the loss, ability to remember happy memories without intense sadness.

Ways to Help:

  • Continue providing support and understanding as the person continues to grieve in their own way.
  • Celebrate progress and positive moments while also acknowledging that there may still be difficult days ahead.
  • Encourage them to seek professional help if needed.

Grieving the loss of a loved one is a deeply personal and unique experience. Remember that there is no right or wrong way to grieve, and everyone’s journey is different. If you're the one dealing with these emotions, please, be patient and allow yourself the space and time to heal. The same goes if you're supporting someone through their grieving process – be patient, and understanding, and most importantly, remind them that they are not alone.

If You Feel Overwhelmed,  It's OK to Seek Help

It's important to recognize when your grief becomes too much to handle on your own. If you find yourself struggling with depression or feeling overwhelmed by intense emotions, it may be helpful to seek professional help from a therapist or counselor. They can provide unbiased support and guidance as you navigate your way through the grieving process.

Some signs that it may be time to seek help include:

  • Difficulty completing daily tasks or maintaining relationships due to intense grief
  • Persistent feelings of hopelessness, guilt, or worthlessness
  • Thoughts of self-harm or suicide
  • Using unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as substance abuse, to deal with grief

Remember, seeking help is not a sign of weakness but a sign of strength in recognizing when you need support. Don't be afraid to reach out for help if you need it.

Bio-One of Marion County Can Help

At Bio-One of Marion County, we understand how difficult grieving can be, and we want to help connect you to the right professionals who can offer the guidance and care you need. Don't hesitate to reach out to us for assistance.

Bio-One specializes in blood and bodily fluids, decomposition/undiscovered death, crime scene, suicide cleanup, tear gas, feces/urine, sewage backups, and odor removal. Helping people get their lives back in order is our #1 priority. 

Bio-One of Marion County is here to help you 24/7, 365 days a year! Call (317) 499-0614, and you'll speak directly to one of us when you call; there is never an answering service.  We'll treat you like a person with the compassion and respect that you deserve.