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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    What are the different stages of grief?

    Does everyone who deals with bereavement go through these stages?
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    The Australian Centre for Grief and Bereavement is an independent, not-for-profit organisation established in 1996 to provide a range of education, counselling, research and clinical … View Profile

    It is a common misconception that there are set ‘stages’ or ‘phases’ of grief that everyone goes through. The most well-know ‘stage’ theory is the Kübler-Ross model, commonly known as ‘The Five Stages of Grief’. In her book On Death and Dying, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross describes the stages as denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Grief is different for everyone and as such, there is no evidence to suggest that we pass through pre-determined stages or phases as we come to terms with loss.

    Grief does not follow a linear pattern. It can be more like a roller coaster with a range of reactions that may change unexpectedly or suddenly. Ultimately people manage to integrate the experience to the point of having a new life arising from the old. The loss remains and is always remembered, but the intensity is no longer disabling or acute.

    Grieving often involves a process of getting our head and our heart around the loss and dealing with living in a changed world. Some emotional responses to loss may be unfamiliar or feel unacceptable to others, or ourselves e.g. anger, guilt, relief or regret. Finding a safe place and an accepting person for support to work through all the effects of bereavement can be important to many people. The amount of support available from family and friends may be limited if they too are grieving. Misunderstandings can arise when people experience different responses to a shared loss. Support outside the family or community of friends may then become an important factor in understanding and expressing your grief. It is important to know that you can survive the experience and that the new life that eventually comes about may have very positive aspects, despite the pain that loss can bring with it. 

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