What Is the Hardest Stage of Grief?

Everyone handles grief in their own unique way. However, there are some general guidelines about the stages of grief that may be helpful to keep in mind when dealing with grief—particularly for those in a time of bereavement. 

You may be wondering, for instance, how long does grief last?

A common theory is that there are five stages of grief, and some believe acceptance is the hardest stage.

Acceptance often occurs later in the grieving process, so it's considered the hardest stage of grief simply because it requires fully accepting a loved one is gone.

Accepting the loss is about realizing that life will never be the same without your loved one, but you can still grow, move on, and enjoy the life you have.

The grieving process may be filled with guilt, anger, denial, and blame, and many people get stuck at some point along the way.

The five stages of grief

The five stages of grief, introduced by psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in 1969, traces an individual's emotional evolution throughout the mourning process and categorizes emotions into the following stages:

  • denial

  • anger

  • bargaining

  • depression

  • acceptance

Think you may be depressed? Take this quick online depression assessment.

While the five-stage model was originally created for terminally ill patients or relatives of patients, it can be used in any situation where a person experiences significant loss.

This is just one of many theories on how people grieve.

Another example comes from Colin Murray Parkes, in his book Bereavement.

Parkes introduced the following four emotional stages of the grief process:

  1. Numbness: emotions have become frozen.

  2. Pining: a strong desire to reclaim something that has been lost.

  3. Depression: obsessing about the loss.

  4. Recovery: the creation of a new identity.

The stages of grief are a process that is different for everyone.

One stage may last longer or shorter than the others, and the order can differ too. It's also worth noting that not everyone who goes through the grieving process goes through all five stages.

When to get help

Some people need additional support to overcome the aftermath of grief and loss. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness or a sign that you're losing control.

If you experience any of the following issues for more than five weeks, you should see a mental health professional:

  • You feel numb or empty and don't know how to cope with your feelings

  • You don't have many friends or relatives that you can talk to

  • You are self-medicating with alcohol, drugs, sex, or gambling.

How to find a therapist to help with grief

The Monarch Directory by SimplePractice can help you find the right therapist for your needs.

Concerned you might be depressed?

Take our online depression assessment to determine whether you may be experiencing the symptoms of depression.

If you are feeling depressed, we recommend you reach out speak with someone—a trusted family member, friend, doctor, or therapist—about how you're feeling. Here are counselors near you who specialize in helping clients with depression you may wish to contact for a phone consultation or appointment.

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