5 Stages of Grief and Loss of Life – Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

My mother was 40 years old when she found out that she had a cardiac heart disease. This was in the year 1990. Despite the fact that she maintained a healthy living; for instance, she had avoided consuming fast foods and harmful drugs, the disease was growing at an alarming rate. Doctors argue that cardiac heart disease can result when one exerts too much pressure to the heart. My mother’s disease was therefore, linked to the fact that she had already delivered six children naturally and this had put a strain on her heart. This disease was diagnosed when my mother was there months pregnant. Her chance of surviving was that she procures an abortion. This was contrary to the Muslim faith that prohibits a woman from undergoing an abortion once the unborn heart inside her womb starts beating. She was therefore faced with a difficult decision to make; she chose to put her life on the line and maintain the pregnancy for my survival.

It was not until I was fifteen years old that I learned of my mothers death after delivering me. This information was concealed to me by the people I held dearly.  The sacrifice that my mother gave for my life made me experience grief and loss in a different way. Therefore, in my case, Kubler’s five stages of grief and loss is different since I found out about my mother’s painful sacrifice when I was still young.

Grief is a mental state of suffering that one experiences when they loses someone dear to them. Everyone has experienced grief at some point in life, especially when their friends or family members die. Grief that results from death of a loved one is the most traumatizing and painful that one can endure. When an individual is experiencing this kind of grief, it is recommended that he or she should seek professional counseling or divine intervention. A counseling session with a professional counselor is therapeutic and therefore has a long lasting relief (Kubler-Ross, 2005). Other people however, turn to their religious guides for spiritual intervention and moral comfort. However, not everyone that seeks third party intervention will conquer grief and overcome it easily. Others take their entire lifetimes to forget about their grief. This article outlines personal experience that I underwent upon my mother’s death.

When the word “grief” is mentioned, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross rings on many people’s minds. Kubler was a Swiss psychiatrist who spent most of her time studying and comforting people on their deathbeds. Through her study and contributions to grief management, she changed the way people look at terminally ill patients; promoting compassion and care towards them. After her extensive research, Kubler published On Death and Dying in 1969. She postulated that there are five stages that a mourner underwent before overcoming grief and accepting reality. These stages are: Denial; Anger; Bargaining; Depression and Acceptance.

1. Denial

In the first stage, a mourner experiences total denial of the occurrence. During this stage, the world becomes meaningless to an individual. Life makes no sense to them and they live in shock and denial (Kubler-Ross, 2005). This state of denial and shock helps one to cope with the situation, making survival possible. As one continues to accept harsh reality of loss and begins to ask questions, the healing process is initiated and the feeling of denial begins to fade. In relation to my case, I experienced very strong denial since it was almost impossible to believe that the person you have known to be your real mother for 15 years is your step mother. Furthermore, accepting the fact that my actual mother had died upon my delivery was hard.

2. Anger

The second stage is characterized by anger. This is a necessary stage for the healing process. Kubler state that the more one feels anger, the more it dissipates and thereby paving way for healing. Anger has no limit and if not carefully checked it could spill over and affect close associates like family members, doctors and friends. Underneath anger lies pain. It is therefore naturally that this stage is a painful one. My anger was aroused by the fact that this crucial information was concealed to me until I was fifteen years old.

3. Bargaining

After people have undergone a painful experience in the anger stage, they enter a bargaining phase. This is where people stop being harsh and starts softening up. They ask themselves “what if?” questions and tends to go back in time and change what had happened. During this stage, one may allow for counseling or religious intervention.  Kubler asserts that many of her patients would pray and plea to God even though some had no previous experience in religion. In Islamic religion, we pray to God for the departed so that He can forgive their sins and receive them in heaven.

4. Depression

After bargaining stage, our attention then moves to the present. One experiences emptiness and grief that seems to last forever, enters on a more deep level (Kubler-Ross, 2005). Kubler reports that people in this stage should be encouraged to grieve as it is an essential element in paving way for the next stage. During this stage, I took nearly two years to overcome the grief. My family would comfort me and even admit me for counseling, but that hardly helped much, considering the fact that I was only fifteen years old when I received the shocking information.

5. Acceptance

The final stage is the acceptance period. This stage is often confused with the notion that one is “all right” with what has happened. However, this is not normally the case as some people may never be OK with the loss of a loved one. In this stage, one accepts the fact that their loved one is physically gone and separated from them and therefore recognizes this new permanent reality. One might never like this new reality but eventually they accept it and learn to live with it. This is a new norm that one needs to embrace, living in a world without their departed loved ones. However, many people may tend to resist this new norm at first and try to live the life before their loved ones died. This is a stage that I found differing with my case. I found it impossible to accept my mother’s death due to the fact that he died in sacrifice to my life. The feeling of regret refreshes in my mind whenever I access something that reminds me of her; like looking at her picture. It is therefore hard to accept the fact that she died, and worst still, the fact that her death was in exchange with my life. According to my case, whenever I reach this stage, I rebound back to the depression stage. However, this stage has become a source of inspiration to me, as I live my life as a given gift by my mother. This does not mean acceptance, though.


In conclusion, finding acceptance after the loss of a loved one may be just having good days than bad days. As people begin to adjust and live new life, they often tend to think that by doing so they are betraying their dead loved ones. The fact of the matter is that we can never replace our dead loved ones, but we can make new connections and enjoy our remaining lives. Kubler-Ross’ contribution is widely accepted by mourner, although some people experiences recurrent stages, like my case.


Kubler-Ross, E. (2005) On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief through the Five Stages of Loss. Routledge.