The 5 Stages of Grief: Using Our Emotions to Help Us Heal

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We have likely all experienced the terrible pain of losing a loved one and we all know how difficult it can be to deal with. It can feel unbearable and as if the pain will never end. There is a cycle of grief that we all go through and it involves so many different emotions including sadness, anger and confusion. These are all understandable and are part of the healing process. Understanding and using them can help us to heal. The 5 different stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance.

1 Denial

It can be so hard to believe that we have lost an important person in our lives, especially if we had just spoken to or seen that person recently. Denial helps us to try to reduce the overwhelming pain that we are feeling. In the moment of loss, our minds are struggling to cope with the reality of what has just happened to us. We wonder how we will continue to carry on without that person in our lives. During the denial stage, we are trying to pretend that the loss does not exist and we are also trying to understand what is happening. We can give help with coping with depression, Oxford at our clinic. 

2 Anger

There is so much to process after losing a loved one that sometimes the only emotional outlet we feel we have is to be angry. We are trying to adjust to a new reality and are dealing with incredible emotional discomfort. When expressing our emotions it can be worrying that we will be judged, so it is easier to be angry than admit we are scared. Anger tends to be the first emotion we reach for when we are dealing with loss. In a time when we need consoling and support, unfortunately, our anger can make us unapproachable.

3 Bargaining

After losing a loved one it is normal to feel so desperate that we would do anything to make the pain go away. We say things to ourselves such as “Please God if you save this person I will turn my life around.” Or “I will promise to be a better person if you keep this person with me.” During the bargaining stage, we tend to reach towards something bigger than us to change the outcome of what is happening/going to happen because we know that we can’t change it ourselves. 

Also during the bargaining phase is when we will look back at our time with that person and reflect on times we may have not gotten on with them or upset them. We wish that we could go back and play things out differently. And we try to convince ourselves that if we had behaved differently, then we wouldn’t feel the pain that we are feeling.

4 Depression

As time passes, and our emotions begin to calm down, the reality of the situation starts to become even more apparent. The loss we have experienced is unavoidable and this is when the sadness starts to grow. We feel the loss of our loved one heavily and we pull in on ourselves. We may start to retreat from others and social situations, we stop reaching out to others when we need it most and we become less sociable. Depression is a natural stage of grief and can feel very isolating.

5 Acceptance

This is the final stage of the grief cycle and it is the point when we are no longer fighting the reality of the situation or trying to change it. We have come to terms with what has happened and have accepted our loss. However, it does not mean that we do not feel any pain. Our sadness and regret can still be present in our lives but our denial and anger and our need to bargain for a different outcome are gone.

Understanding Our Emotions

It is important to remember that everyone grieves differently. The person who is experiencing the loss may not feel all these stages and may not feel them in this order, and that’s OK. It can be difficult to see when we are moving through the stages, what stage we are at and if we are moving backwards or forwards through them. Understanding emotional containment and how it can help.

There is also no specified time period for someone to move through these grief stages. Some may experience these quickly (such as a few weeks) or some may take longer to go through the stages (such months or even years). Whatever time it takes someone to move through the stages is completely acceptable. 

Dealing With Grief

Grief is very unique to the person experiencing it, as is the relationship to the person who has been lost. It is acceptable to move through the grief cycle in your own time and to not worry about how you “should be” acting during this time.

FAQs about the 5 stages of grief

What is the hardest stage of grief?

Depression is usually the longest stage of grief so therefore then can be perceived as the hardest. In order to come out of this stage we actually need to allow ourselves to feel our deepest sadness, only after that can we then begin to move through the final stages.

What does grief do to the brain?

Grief and loss can affect the brain in many ways. It can cause changes in your memory, behaviour and sleep. It can also affect your immune system as well as the heart. In some cases, it can cause longer-term damage such as brain fog.

Can you skip stages of grief?

Some people may not experience all five stages of the grief cycle, and they may not even go through them in this order. You may loop back between the first few a while before you can move on. Grief is different for every person. You may remain in one of the five stages for longer and then skip one entirely.


All clinicians at Birmingham CBT practice Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, or are Psychologists, providing  evidence-based interventions and support for a range of issues for both young people and adults. If you would like to book an appointment you can do so on our online booking portal. If you have a question please get in touch via our online contact form or call us on 01865 920077. 

Therapists Qualified To Help Deal With Bereavement


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