You’ve probably heard a lot about the “5 stages of grief.”

They’ve become so ingrained in our understanding of mourning, that you don’t often discuss grief without someone bringing them up.

As psychiatrist Elizabeth Kubler-Ross introduced them, the 5 stages are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

You might look at that list and wonder how that became the official order — you didn’t experience grief in those stages at all. Or, you could feel relieved that there’s a checklist to help you get through.

But the truth is, grief isn’t that simple.

The 5 stages can be a helpful tool to allow some people to name their feelings, but they’re definitely not the last word in mourning. 

Everyone grieves differently.

You might feel one way on a certain day, and then a completely different way the next. Maybe you find yourself continuously returning to bargaining, or experiencing depression before anger. You might skip a stage, or experience one not listed. 

It might be tempting to look at that last stage, “acceptance,” as a state of complete healing. However, just as grief is not linear, there’s no definite “end” to the process. You might consider yourself as “accepting” of the loss, but that sets you up for frustration if you suddenly start to feel that grief again. 

That being said, you may slowly find a “new normal” throughout the process of grief. I discuss this on my website.

So, it’s okay to sit with the grief and take your time to process it.

Be patient with yourself. You’re grieving in your own way — your loss is unique, as are you. 

If you or someone you know is struggling with grief, please seek support.

By Courtland McPherson, MSW, LCSW (Regular Guest Blogger)