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The 5 Stages of Grief Explained

Everyone experiences grief at some point in their lives. Throughout the last year alone, you’ve probably experienced some kind of loss that caused you to grieve. Maybe you lost a loved one due to COVID-19. Maybe you lost your job. Even losing your sense of normalcy and routine can cause you to grieve.

While everyone deals with grief differently, you’ve undoubtedly heard of the five stages. It’s easy to overlook them and assume you can handle whatever you’re going through independently. But these stages have stood the test of time for a reason. Most people who ignore them may not really know what each stage is about.

If you’ve been grieving or have experienced a loss, understanding the stages of grief and working through them is the best way to move forward. With that in mind, let’s cover what those stages really mean.


No one wants to accept harsh realities. Even if you understand the truth of what happened, denying parts of it or refusing to believe the circumstances are normal. Whether you consciously or unconsciously deny reality, it’s used as a coping mechanism when your mind can’t fully handle or process what happened yet.


Life isn’t fair.

That’s a common thought for anyone who is experiencing loss. Unfortunately, that thought often leads to anger. When you can’t find a reason for what happened, that anger becomes worse, and you might start to place blame on something or someone with no basis.

Anger can burn bridges and ruin relationships. It can cause you to do things you wouldn’t normally do and treat people you care about harshly.


Once you’ve moved past anger, you might start bargaining. Like denial, bargaining is a way to cope with the situation by distancing yourself from the reality of it. It’s a way to postpone your own feelings by imagining different “what if” scenarios instead of focusing on the truth.

However, emotions always demand to be felt, so the bargaining stage never lasts long because it isn’t based on reality.


Once you’ve finally realized the reality of your loss, it’s not uncommon for depression to set in. It’s normal to feel an overwhelming sense of sadness. You might even feel hopeless or like you’ve lost control. This isn’t an easy stage to be in, and it’s often the point at which people seek out some kind of help or support.


Acceptance is the final stage of grief, but it doesn’t mean it’s the easiest. It is the realization of reality and a feeling of stability. Accepting the truth doesn’t mean you forget about your loss or ignore it. It just means that you can finally start to move forward healthily.

How CBT Can Help With Grief

If you’re struggling with grief or trying to work through these stages, CBT can help. It will help you reconcile with the loss you experienced, whether it was the death of a loved one or losing a job.

CBT will take you through the stages of grief, focusing on cognitive and behavioral techniques to cope with each one. You can also use it as a preventative tool to fight back against anxiety or depression. So if you do experience grief, you’ll know how to better work through the stages and change the way you think and behave.

If you’re interested in learning more about CBT for grief or need help, please contact us.

Together, we can effectively work through the stages of grief, and you can learn how to move forward in your life without forgetting about what you lost. That loss may always be a part of you, but once you’ve accepted it, you can start your next chapter.