Frequently Asked Questions

How do the five and seven stage grief models differ?

The five stages of grief were identified by psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in 1969 in her groundbreaking book On Death and Dying. Her theory explained the process of grief over five distinct, linear stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. Kubler-Ross’s work was revolutionary. It acknowledged that grief is a normal emotional process, which helped reduce the stigma associated with grieving. However, Kubler-Ross’s research was done with patients who were dying of a terminal illness which gave the impression that grief was a linear process — where one step had to follow another. This became problematic as the grief experienced by the survivors of loss is unique. People move in and out of the stages of grief in varying ways and time frames. The idea that someone was not grieving “correctly” was confusing and painful.

Dr. Kubler-Ross later regretted the misunderstanding of her original work and revised her 5-stage model to a 7-stage grieving process. The stages of shock and testing were added so that the complete process consisted of shock, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, testing, and acceptance. Shock describes an initial response of emotional paralysis, or numbness, and the testing stage involves trying new ways of coping with the loss and rebuilding life after loss.

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