Harvard Mental Health Letter

Beyond the five stages of grief

The bereavement process is seldom linear and varies from one person to the next.

Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross developed a frequently cited model of bereavement, the "stages of grief," in her landmark book On Death and Dying. She described a linear five-step process — consisting of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance — as terminally ill patients became aware of impending death. Dr. Kübler-Ross' work helped legitimize the wide variety of emotions in people who are dying. The five-stage theory was later altered and adapted to cover the reaction to other losses, such as divorce or the death of a loved one.

Today, however, many experts no longer embrace the concept of sequential stages of grief and have proposed a number of alternatives.

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