The different stages of grief


The term Sadness refers to a mood that occurs in response to a distressing event. The sad event is not defined in more detail and can basically be understood differently by everyone. Often times are Losses of related parties, important relationships or other strokes of fate are reasons for grief for many people. The definition is subject to a certain variation and is culturally shaped. According to various psychoanalytic and social analytical models, experiencing grief is described as a process that different phases passes through. These phases are known as Phases of mourning.
The phases are defined differently depending on the theorist. There are three main models of the phases of mourning, each named after the person who defined it. In detail, these are the phases after Kübler Rosswho have favourited phases Kast and ultimately the phases after Yorick Spiegel.

Causes of the phases

The question of the causes of the phases of grief is very difficult to answer. Sound psychoanalytical and psychological knowledge as well as pronounced competence in the analysis of social behavior is required in order to be able to determine sufficient causes. In addition, the phases of mourning are defined differently and thus slightly different mechanisms of origin can be defined.

Put simply, the grief phases can be thought of as a reaction to a sad event. Purely hypothetically, one can assume the death of a loved one for this. Many conscious and unconscious Conflicts of the psyche with what has been experienced evoke reactions that are expressed in different ways during the phases of grief. Also social aspects play an important role. In many situations of grief, mourners have to redefine their role in the social fabric and go through complex adjustment mechanisms, which often arise more or less consciously. Assuming a young mother loses her children's father in a tragic accident, she finds herself not only as a widow, but also as a single mother. She must be hers So now redefine social role. Such processes also contribute to the development of the mourning phases.

What phases of grief are there?

Mourning phases are defined differently, so one cannot generally state which phases there are. In general, one must also note that the grief is divided into phases Models acts that have been designed using different views, criteria and perspectives. Despite a claim to objectivity, such models always remain subjective to a certain extent and cannot be applied across the board to everyone. However, they are suitable as rough guideto understand the course of the grief somewhat. Most of the time, phases are described that are run through one after the other or partly in parallel. Often found to The beginning of the mourning a phase of shock or not wanting to be true. This is often followed by a phase in which the grief is experienced very strongly emotionally. One possible designation is "emotional phase". The phase of emotions is often simplified by various authors as Phase of anger described. But also other emotions such as despair, helplessnesst or the like are possible. However, other phases are possible depending on the model. Usually one follows the phase of excessive emotions Phase of in-depth discussion with the grief experience. Ultimately, one is divided Phase of acceptance which usually takes place after processing what has been experienced. But that does not mean that sadness is no longer experienced.

Kübler Ross

The Psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross described a phased one in 1969 Model for dealing with dying. In a narrower sense, the model relates to the phases that a dying person goes through until death occurs. However, it can also be applied to the way mourners deal with the death of their loved ones or loved ones. The model allows certain individual variations when going through the phases, both in terms of the sequence and the intensity of the phases. It is possible, for example, that phases are lived through several times or also occur in parallel. The Kübler-Ross model also served as inspiration and template for later models, although - like its successors - it is also heavily criticized from many sides. A rigid phase model does not seem to do justice to the requirement to realistically depict individually experienced grief. The phases according to Kübler-Ross are differentiated and presented below:

1. Denial phase of defense and of not wanting to be true:
The dying person first denies impending death. For example, he assumes that the doctor has made a misdiagnosis or that his examination results must have been mixed up. Relatives or friends also often go through this phase because they do not want to admit the imminent death of the person close to them.

2. Anger - phase of anger, anger and protest:
At this stage, the dying person feels anger and anger over impending death. He often projects his anger onto loved ones who do not have to suffer his fate. Envy of those who survive often plays an important role in this phase. Relatives can also go through this phase and develop anger. The dying continue to be plagued by the fear of being forgotten once they are no longer alive.

3. Bargaining phase of negotiation:
In this phase, which is rather fleeting and of short duration, the dying person tries to postpone his death. He negotiates with his doctors or in secret with God. These negotiations sometimes follow childlike behavior patterns in which children negotiate with their parents in order to receive rewards. In return, for example, homework is offered. It is similar in this phase with the dying. For example, he offers repentance for his sins, promises improvement or the like and hopes for a longer life or freedom from pain as a reward.

4. Depression and grief - phase of sadness:
The dying person experiences sadness about various things during this phase. Sadness can be experienced in response to things that have already happened. This can be, for example, losses that have already been experienced, such as an amputation in the course of therapy, or the loss of the social role in the family structure. Furthermore, sadness can arise in relation to things that are still to come. Questions like “How will my children get along without me?” Or “What will my family members do without me?” Plague the dying.

5.Acceptance - phase of acceptance:
In this phase the dying person accepts his imminent death and finds rest. He stops fighting and looks back on his past life.


The Feeling of anger plays an important and central role in understanding and experiencing grief from the point of view of most people. In the well-known phase models of grief, anger or anger also occupy an important position. Most authors refer to the grief that one experiences through the death of a loved one, but other strokes of fate can lead to grief - and as a consequence to anger. This anger is often accompanied by one Envy of other peoplewho do not have to suffer such a fate. Questions like “Why me?” Or “What did I do wrong to get this happening to me?” Often fuel the anger even further. However, each person experiences grief differently and not everyone reacts with anger and anger. Many people experience anger in the process of grieving and when it occurs it should not be suppressed. This only adds to tension, guilt, and negative emotions.


Many people initially react to a stroke of fate, a death or a serious diagnosis Incomprehension and drowsiness. Also a kind shock occurs in the first few moments or even days. A predominant mechanism at this stage is that Denial of the cause of mourning. It is often referred to as “not wanting to be true”. A feeling of helplessness, helplessness or emptiness is often described by those affected. Many people are unable to adequately express their feelings in these moments. This can be very stressful for outsiders. Denial of a funeral event can several weeks last for.

Duration of mourning

It is very difficult to narrow grief into a general pattern and define it in such a general way. The The duration of the mourning process is something very individualthat cannot simply be specified in days, weeks or even years. Various times are repeatedly given by many sides, but these cannot be verified. The grief is a flowing processthat has no abrupt end. Some people mourn for a few months, some for several years.

Grief or Depression - How Do I Know the Difference?

Sadness or depression?

It is very difficult to be normal Differentiating sadness from depression. The boundaries are almost fluid. Especially for those affected, the view of the situation is clouded, so that it is even more difficult to differentiate. As physiological is the so-called Grief work which is a normal response to loss. It varies greatly from person to person and is part of the process of processing.
A Grief reaction however, lasts longer than 6 months and is more intense than the grief work. However, what is called "more violent" is very difficult to put into words. Only a professional assessment by a psychiatrist, psychologist or psychotherapist can provide clarity. However, even the grief response is not yet depression.
A very important one Differentiator the grief reaction and depression is that Feeling of joy. People with depression basically feel one no matter the circumstances of the day gloomy mood, kind of a Joylessnesswhereas people who go through a grief reaction may very well experience joy. But of course it's not that simple.

The depression is a serious one psychiatric illness, which is diagnosed according to strict criteria. These must be fulfilled in order to be able to determine depression. The feeling of numbness is also very typical for depression, but rather untypical for a grief reaction. Patients with depression can feel impoverished in both joy and sadness.

Mourning after separation

Also Breakups lead to grief in a way. The duration of a relationship does not always play a major role. Even very short relationships can cause burdens for some people for a long time if they are experienced as very intense. People deal with breakups very differently. While some enjoy the newfound independence, others prefer to rush into their work or even into a new relationship. Some authors also attribute the grief after a separation to be phased. However, these are unscientific models that are basically based on personal experience.

Grief after lovesickness

Lovesickness is an important emotional process that comes to light when processing an unrequited, past or unhappy love. It can take place in the “healthy” mental area or it can lead to an excessive depressive reaction. Lovesickness, which is experienced psychologically as a kind of "grief", is a normal reaction. Mostly it can be processed within a few months or a year. However, this must be distinguished from depressive symptoms that are associated with listlessness, joylessness, a feeling of paralysis or even physical pain.

You might also be interested in: What happens when you are lovesick?

Mourning after death

Probably everyone experiences the grief after the death of a loved one at some point in their life. Many people, be they psychologists, clergymen, psychiatrists, sociologists, or scholars, have preoccupied and dealt with in the past the grief experienced after death.It was often tried to put the process into words. This resulted in various models that make grief easier to understand and want to provide insights into the experience of the mourner. Famous examples of such Phase models are the models after Verena Kast, Yorick Spiegel and Kübler-Ross. The latter describes in the true sense the course of the grief phases of a dying person, but it can also be transferred to the experience of a death as an outsider. The grief after the death of a loved one is understandable and natural. Rough patterns of grief can be seen (s. Models) which apparently apply to many people. Nevertheless, the grief after the death of a person is very individual. While some people deal with death well and find their way back to life quickly - which does not mean that they forget the deceased - other people experience great difficulties in finding their way back to their everyday lives.

Phases of mourning after Verena Kast

The Swiss Psychologist Verena Kast formulated four phases of grief that relate to the loss of a loved one - in the sense of a death.

1st phase of not wanting to be true: In this phase the mourner experiences a kind of shock reaction. It occurs immediately after the news of death. Despair, helplessness and helplessness are typical feelings in this phase, which can last from a few hours to several weeks. People's reactions are very different. Some feel paralyzed, others break down completely and lose control.
2nd phase of the emerging emotions: This phase is very different for each individual. Every person has different emotions. Often it is anger or anger, despair, sadness or even incomprehension. In any case the emotions should be experienced consciously and not suppressedotherwise they can have serious consequences such as depression. A duration of weeks up to several months is assumed.
3. The phase of searching and separating: This phase is a complex process of searching and breaking up. But what does that actually mean? After losing a loved one, those who grieve look for memories. Experienced moments are lived through inside, common places visited or activities taken up that were shared with the deceased. Open points are clarified and negotiated internally. This phase is very intense and allows a violent confrontation with the deceased and with the experience of death. People are looking for things over and over again, small separations of things are experienced and new searches arise. A duration of several months or even years is possible.
4th phase of the new relation to self and world: After the experienced emotions have been processed, the mourner finds peace again. Often the mourner's attitude towards many things has changed after the experience has been properly assessed and processed. Life goes on and the realization that life goes on despite the loss and has meaning now prevails.

Stages of grief according to Yorick Spiegel

Yorick Spiegel was a German Protestant theologian, which defined four phases of mourning. In his model, he describes phases that a person goes through when he learns of the death of a loved one.

1st shock phase: This phase immediately follows the news that a loved one has passed away. The mourner feels a sense of paralysis, a kind of shock. The message of death is not processed correctly and leads to a feeling of emptiness. This phase lasts a maximum of two days on.
2nd controlled phase: This phase is characterized by obligations and errands that exist around the funeral. During this time, the mourner has no freedom to deal with his own feelings. Often mourners describe this phase as a film that passes by them.
3rd phase of regression: As soon as the mourner comes to rest, he has time to process what has happened. He hardly deals with other things and focuses on the mourning for the deceased.
4th phase of adaptation: In this phase, the mourner regains access to his environment and begins to lead an independent life again. Nevertheless, there are relapses into sadness, which he learns to deal with better and better. Furthermore, he can now open up to new relationships that can play a lasting role in his life. This phase takes about a year.