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What are the Stages of Grief?
Understanding the Science Behind Grieving

Grieving the loss of a loved one can really stink. But understanding the various stages of grief can make it a little easier.

If you’ve ever been sad about the death of a loved one, you know how grief can take over your life. But there’s actually a science behind grief and bereavement. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, a Swiss-American psychiatrist who wrote many books on grief and grieving, famously theorized that we follow what she called “the stages of grief” as we go on grieving.

So what is grief? What are the stages of grief? Check out this explanation of each of the grief stages.

1) Denial

In the first of the five stages of grief, we deny that our loved ones are gone. Soon after the death of our friend, our grieving takes the form of refusing to believe that our friend is actually dead. We use denial as a defense mechanism, defending ourselves from the change that death and bereavement represents. In the first of the stages of grief, we try to escape the reality of our friend’s death. This is the mind's way of shielding us from the other painful emotions associated with grief. 

2) Anger

In this stage, we are filled with anger over the death of our loved ones. Part of the steps of grief is searching for the source of our grief. We look for a cause to this tragedy, and we look for who or what is to blame. All of the books on grief and grieving cannot answer the nagging question: “Why me?” We cope with grief by blaming ourselves or others for the loss of our friend.

3) Bargaining

In the third of the grief stages, we try to bargain with God or with a higher power about reversing what has happened to us. We beg God (or fate) for second chances, using "What if?" and "If only" sort of pleas. Perhaps if I choose to devote my life to charitable causes, God will somehow undo the death of my loved one. The steps of grief have a way of driving people to ask the big questions in life; that happens during the bargaining stage of grieving. And that's where followme.org comes in: we hope to provide a safe place as you answer the difficult questions that your grief raises. Find out more below.

4) Depression

In this step, we feel the tremendous weight of our loved one’s death. We continue our bereavement by sinking into depression and the realization that our friend is really gone. During the fourth of the stages in grief, sadness, regret, fear, and sorrow well up in us. This stage is the darkest of the five stages of grief.

5) Acceptance

In this step, we finally begin to come to terms with the death of our friend. At the last of the stages of grief, we become aware that it’s going to be OK, that we will survive the loss of our loved one. In this phase of grieving, comfort sets in, and we realize that life will go on.

Finally, it’s important to note that a mourner may go through these stages in a different order, return to a given stage, and stay in a stage for a long time. These grief stages are a guide—not a rule. They encapsulate most of the broad emotions that a person goes through after a loss. 

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Finding God and Your Grieving

The Bible is a real, authentic, genuine book-- filled with the stories and thoughts of real people. Whereas some grief-coping strategies may encourage you to deny your grief and try to convince you that your grief is just in your head, the Bible takes a different route. Your grief is real, your pain is actual, and there's still the opportunity for true healing.

Consider the story of David, one of the most prominent authors in the Bible. David was king of a whole nation, a military leader, a wise man, and a gifted songwriter. And yet his life was filled with sorrow: much of his life, he was being chased by a vengeful predecessor who wanted to kill him; his best friend was killed; his son died. And yet in the midst of this pain, David is able to sing out to God:

"You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
You have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness;
To the end that my glory may sing praise to You and not be silent.
O LORD my God, I will give thanks to You forever. 

What is the hope that propels David through his seasons of grief? David devotes himself to loving and serving God and he finds God to be more than enough for his hurting heart. Want to find the hope that David had? Let God turn your mourning into dancing, too. Grief is hard, but God is bigger than that grief. He wants to comfort you, to sit with you as you mourn, and to carry you through to the other side.