Coping with the 5 Stages of Grief | the GRAND of Dublin

The 5 Stages of Grief

The 5 Stages of Grief

Catherine Denlinger
Director of Social Services, MSW, LSW
THE GRAND of Dublin

Given the tragedies that happened over the weekend in El Paso and Dayton, I thought I would briefly talk to you about grief and how to cope with loss in general.

There are 5 stages of grief that one typically goes through and there is no timeline on each stage.  Everyone grieves at their own pace and on their own terms. The important thing to remember is that grieving is a natural and a necessary course of emotions that everyone goes through.

Grief Cycle

Below are the 5 stages of grief:

  1. Denial
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance


  1. Denial – Initially we are in shock that this happened. We are telling ourselves that this can’t be real.  I must be dreaming.  Please tell me I’m dreaming.  Numbness takes over our bodies and we seem to be frozen, unable to comprehend what’s happening.  This is a normal reaction to loss, tragedy, trauma, etc.
  1. Anger– We are annoyed easily, blame others, question our faith, and feel very negative about everything and everyone. The underlying feeling of anger is pain.  In order to grieve we need to feel angry.  It’s ok to be mad, to be upset, and to be furious.  We need to look for a reason.  Why did this happen?  Why did this happen to me, to us, to him, to her, to them?  Looking for an answer to explain what happened so that we can understand the why.  This is a normal reaction to loss, tragedy, trauma, etc.
  1. Bargaining – If only…What if…Please God…. This stage is when we try to come up with a plan to fix it.  Trying to figure out how we can give something of ourselves and in return we wake up and this was all just a bad dream.  This is when we are going through the guilt.  Why not me? It should have been me? Let me take his/her/their place.
  1. Depression – Emptiness. The loss is real and we feel it.  It’s the heaviness in our bodies and in our hearts.  This is one of the hardest stages to go through for many people.  The pain and loneliness can feel overwhelming.  This is most definitely when you need support from others.  You don’t have to go through this alone.
  1. Acceptance – We never forget, we find peace within ourselves. As hard as it is to do it is necessary.  We must try to live in a world without our loved one.  Things change, we change and we never replace.  We just learn to live with it day by day, month by month, and year by year.

In summary, be in shock, be mad, be a negotiator, be down and at some point…move forward.  It’s okay to experience these emotions.  It’s necessary to be able to move on, to have good days, to feel happy again, to experience pleasures, and to enjoy life.  If you find yourself unable to have these good feelings then please seek help.  There are many resources to help you with the grieving process. You are not alone.

If you’re ever in the situation that you need long term care, skilled care, any care in a Nursing Center and you are going through struggles in your life please reach out to your social worker.  We can help! We have resources to assist you with managing your feelings and improving your mood.  When in a Nursing Center and the social work administers a PHQ-9 mood assessment (discussed in a previous article) they are asking these questions for a reason.  When answering these mood questions and scoring a lot of points, take advantage of the question, “would you like to talk with someone about how you’ve been feeling?” “Would like to talk with a counselor or our physician?” “Would you like to talk with me about how you’ve been feeling?” Social workers in Nursing Centers are not grief counselors; however, we are trained to have the basic skills that are needed to provide support and encouragement to you.  We want to help you.   If you need help, we are here for you.

About the Author