The 6 Stages of Grief: What to Expect and How to Cope

Christian Worstell
In this article...
  • Discover the 6 stages of grief and learn how to cope with them. Understand what causes grief, how long it lasts, and find tips on managing your emotions and resources to support your mental health.

Grief is an intricate feeling that can be difficult to manage. The grief model is often described by the six stages of grief, which include shock, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Though not everyone experiences all 6 stages of grief or goes through them in any particular order, it's important to recognize how the steps of grief affect us so we can cope during this challenging time.

This guide will explore what causes grief; how long it lasts; and offer tips on coping strategies.

Table of Contents:

What are the Six Stages of the Grieving Process?

Grief may come in multiple guises, from sorrow to rage. Understanding grief is important so that you can recognize when someone may be experiencing it and provide support as needed.

  1. Denial
    The first stage of the grief model is denial. This occurs when someone refuses to accept the reality of their situation or circumstance. They may deny that something has happened or try to ignore its effects on them emotionally and physically.

  2. Anger
    After denial, people may experience anger. The anger stage can manifest itself in different ways such as frustration, aggression, irritability, resentment and hostility towards others or even themselves. During this stage people may feel like lashing out at those around them for seemingly no reason at all.

    It’s important for loved ones to remember that this behavior is a symptom of experiencing grief.

  3. Bargaining
    Those in the bargaining stage of grief often make promises about future actions or behaviors they will change in order to avoid tragedy, regardless of how unrealistic those bargains may be. People may try to make bargains that involve sacrificing something for certain conditions being met (e.g., "If I do X, then please let Y happen...").

  4. Depression
    In the fourth stage of grief, individuals may experience a sense of gloom and depression as they grapple with the alterations that have happened and begin to mull over their past mistakes. During this period, they may feel isolated due to a lack of energy for activities they once enjoyed. This can lead to spiraling negative thoughts and mental health challenges.

    The depression stage can be a difficult one to navigate. Depression is characterized by feelings of sadness, hopelessness, guilt, worthlessness, and despair. People may also experience physical symptoms such as fatigue or changes in appetite or sleep patterns.

    Mental health issues related to depression can last much longer than other stages of grief if left untreated. It’s important to recognize when you are feeling depressed so that you can seek help through grief counseling which can provide support and treatment options that will help you cope with your feelings more effectively.

  5. Acceptance
    The fifth stage of grief is often referred to as the “acceptance” stage. This is when a person begins to accept the reality of their loss and can start to move forward with their life.

    During this stage, people can recognize that the feelings of loss will eventually pass. While acceptance does not mean that a person has completely moved past their grief, it means they have reached an understanding of how they can cope with it in order to live a fulfilling life again.

  6. Hope
    The sixth and final stage of grief is called the "hope" stage, as this is typically when a survivor of grief is ready to move forward with optimism for a better future.

The six stages of grief provide a framework to help us understand and process our emotions during times of loss. By understanding grief, we can better prepare ourselves for the journey ahead.

What Causes Grief?

The grieving process is an emotional response to a loss or change in life.

Experiencing grief can be the result of a variety of events, such as passing away, sickness, joblessness, separation or other substantial occurrences. These painful emotions can also be caused by the absence of something important, such as a relationship or physical object that has been taken away from us.

  • Grief and sorrow can be brought about by the death of a loved one. This type of grief usually lasts longer than other types because it involves not only mourning for the deceased but also adjusting to their absence in our lives.

  • Illness can cause both physical and emotional pain which leads to grief and sorrow. When someone we care for experiences an illness, it can trigger intense feelings such as dread, remorse and powerlessness that could result in despondency or uneasiness if not addressed properly.

    Coping with this type of grief requires understanding how these emotions affect us and learning healthy ways to manage them so they don’t become overwhelming.

  • Job loss is another major source of grief for many people who experience financial hardship after losing their employment due to downsizing or economic conditions beyond their control. Joblessness brings with it feelings like shame, worthlessness and hopelessness which must be addressed for individuals to move forward in life without being overwhelmed by negative thoughts associated with unemployment.

  • Divorce is another form of loss that often leads to intense feelings such as anger, betrayal and abandonment which must be worked through before healing can begin.

    Divorce-related grief may take some time before acceptance sets in; however, when done properly, this process allows individuals to come out stronger on the other side despite this difficult period.

  • Sometimes, even positive changes like retirement or moving into a new home are accompanied by bouts of sadness due to leaving behind familiar surroundings, friends or family. This can create moments where nostalgia takes center stage, leading those affected down memory lane filled with bittersweet memories.

Grief can result from a range of situations. Understanding these causes is essential for managing grief and beginning the healing process. Moving on, it's important to understand how long this period lasts in order to best cope with it.

How Long Does Grief Last?

Grief is a complex emotion that takes time to process. No single response can accurately describe how long grief persists, as it varies based on the person and the magnitude of their loss. Grief can last for months or even years.

Grief's effect may rise and fall over time. It’s important to recognize that there is no timeline for grieving; everyone experiences it differently and takes varying amounts of time to heal from their losses.

One way to think about the length of grief is in terms of stages: shock, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, testing/acceptance, resolution/reintegration (or mourning).

Each stage has its own unique set of feelings associated with it — from disbelief and confusion in shock or denial all the way through acceptance or reintegration into life after loss — and they are experienced at different levels by each person who grieves.

In addition to considering emotional stages when thinking about how long grief lasts, it’s also important to remember that physical reactions play a role as well.

Common symptoms during periods of prolonged stress like grieving can include:

  • Fatigue
  • Changes in appetite
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Headaches
  • Chest pain

These physical responses can be managed through self-care practices like exercise, healthy eating habits, restful sleep routines, seeking out grief support, etc.

How Can I Cope with Grief?

It’s important to understand that there are many ways to cope with grief in order to help you move forward.

Expressing yourself through conversation can be a beneficial way to process these painful emotions. Having someone listen attentively as you share your story can provide comfort and understanding during this difficult time.

Engaging in activities that bring joy is another way to cope with grief. Doing something enjoyable such as listening to music, taking a walk outdoors, cooking a favorite meal, or reading a book can help lift spirits while providing much-needed distraction from sorrowful thoughts and feelings.

Taking part in hobbies like painting or writing also provides an outlet for expressing emotion through creative expression which may lead towards healing over time.


Grief is a natural and normal response to loss, but it can be difficult to navigate- it's critical to be aware of the 6 phases of sorrow to better manage your feelings and discover approaches to push ahead with life. Everyone experiences grief differently, so don't be afraid or ashamed if yours looks different from someone else's.

With time, patience, understanding, and support from those around you, it is possible for healing after loss through the 6 stages of grief.

Discover how to navigate the 6 stages of grief with our coping tips and gain insight into government benefits programs that can help you age with financial security and good health.

Christian Worstell
About the Author

Christian Worstell is a senior Medicare and health insurance writer with He is also a licensed health insurance agent. Christian is well-known in the insurance industry for the thousands of educational articles he’s written, helping Americans better understand their health insurance and Medicare coverage.

Christian’s work as a Medicare expert has appeared in several top-tier and trade news outlets including Forbes, MarketWatch, WebMD and Yahoo! Finance.

While at HelpAdvisor, Christian has written hundreds of articles that teach Medicare beneficiaries the best practices for navigating Medicare. His articles are read by thousands of older Americans each month. By better understanding their health care coverage, readers may hopefully learn how to limit their out-of-pocket Medicare spending and access quality medical care.

Christian’s passion for his role stems from his desire to make a difference in the senior community. He strongly believes that the more beneficiaries know about their Medicare coverage, the better their overall health and wellness is as a result.

A current resident of Raleigh, Christian is a graduate of Shippensburg University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. You can find Christian’s most recent articles in our blog.

If you’re a member of the media looking to connect with Christian, please don’t hesitate to email our public relations team at

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