Dr. Kubler Ross- Stages Of Grief

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We’ve heard Dr. Kubler Ross’s stages of grief as it applies to a break up, but often the fifth stage is misinterpreted. First I’d like to review the first four stages:

1. Denial – The “No, not me” stage. This is the stage where you still believe you are the exception, that you’re ex still loves you and will be coming back. The stage where you can’t deal with the fact that things are over, and will never be the same.

2.Anger/Resentment – The “Why me?” stage. When you are angry at them for leaving you and breaking your heart. When you’re angry with them for all the pain that you’re having to deal with and for shattering the ground you stood on. For turning everything you thought you knew upside down.

3. Bargaining – The “If I do this, you’ll do that” stage. When you come up with your plan to win your ex back. When you say “If you stay, I’ll change.” The no contact rule fits here, and so does the making your ex jealous plan... You’re basing your actions, not on your own happiness, but only to get your ex back.

4. Depression - The “It’s really happened” stage. This is the stage where you don’t want to get up, and you feel powerless. You may or may not have accepted that things are really done. You can’t really deal with it yet, but you know it’s happened.

The fifth stage is often described as the moment that you are okay again, but open any psychology book and you’ll realize that that’s just not the case. You don’t bounce right back, although you do start to move on. Here is the truth about the fifth stage.

5. Acceptance – The “This is what happened” stage. You are not over what happened, you have only accepted that there is nothing you can do, things are really over whether you like it or not you will need to move on with you’re life. You may still hurt, you may still love your ex... But things are done. And you’ve accepted there’s no going back.

Eventually you will move on and be happy, which should really be the sixth stage. The first five stages are really important to be happy and to avoid the rebound relationship. The acceptance stage, in my opinion, is by far the hardest. You’ve accepted the inevitable... and you need to deal with watching you’re ex move on, work on moving on yourself, and putting yourself back out there where you can get hurt again.

So... what do you think? Please leave me a comment or give me a


  • Arlene: I agree. Sometimes the acceptance of the loss is the hardest stage, and everyone does it a little differently. For many people (me included) Once you realize that this is the situation in your head, your heart needs to fake it till you make it.
  • night_orchid: I believe that Kubler -Ross studied death and dying in terminally ill patients and this was the coping model for both the dying and their loved ones. Is this your interpretation of her model in regards to relationships?
  • night_orchid: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K%C3%BCbler-Ross_model
  • LyssaBugg: Yes it is my application to relationships. I believe it has also been applied to the aging (my psychology book spent a chapter on this topic). The last stage always seems to be worded that the person is happy with the outcome, or okay with it. It was actually more meant that the patient/person has accepted that they have no control over the outcome and needs to accept it.
  • gummybears: You wrote a book on it?
    I’m going through the list and applying what you have listed and trying to identify the what where when I experienced or a experiencing right now.
    Is there a stage in there anywhere for "Labeling". meaning; turning events, situation into black and white, right or wrong in order to deal with whatever goes on, or is this just a sub-stage/side-effect of depression?
    It might be good to add that the stages cycle and intermix as when it happens it doesn’t happen this linear. And not only may you experience each stage, they do come back, quite often in less intense forms.
    There are also residual bits of loss.... you may lose a relationship partner, but also may lose children due to that breakup, you lose extended family, you lose friends etc.
    It’s good you posted this.
  • LyssaBugg: O no- that was poor wording on my part lol. My Psychology class book. I think labeling sounds sort or like a combination of Denial, Depression and Acceptance. Denial because if you’re over analyzing it you could be trying to find a way to undo it. Depression because you know things are done, but you’re still looking for closure. And acceptance because you are seeing the end, and making a concrete label.
    If you ever need a vent feel free to inbox me, I’m dealing with the stages myself right now =)
  • gummybears: I just have to say one thing that keeps popping in my head everytime this kubler ross list comes up and made to fit loss in a relationship where there is no death.
    When someone dies, you never have to deal with them again face-to-face. Whereas in the case of a break-up/separation/divorce situation you DO have to deal with that person face-to-face again, and again, and again....
    In the case of loss from death, you only have to deal with emotional anchors. The emotional attachment to thoughts, memories, and physical objects, like a favorite chair that the person sat in, or their favorite food that’s on the menu that night. Whereas with divorce and such, not only do you have to deal with loss evertime you see the person(during lawyer meetings, splitting of assets, kid drop-offs and that sort of thing) you have to deal with the internalized emotional anchors, the personal belief system and values that were shattered, and the objects left behind... Never mind seeiing the ex everytime you have to deal with behaviors in the kids (which hold all of the anchors too).
    The kubler ross thingy is good as a basic giudeline and list of things that may happen at differnt times during a break-up loss senario, but it falls short on the dynamics and cyclic intensity that accompanies such things like divorce/separation from a longer term committed relationship.
    Yes, if you need to vent feel free to PM me too. :)
  • Arlene: Gummybear - in breaking up a marriage or a long term relationship with kids you are loosing 2 things: the person and you relationship with this person. You have to morn the loss of the relationship, and if that is not enough, at the same time, you have to start a new kind of relationship with the person who was once you partner. Since all of this is happening to you at the same time, you have several process going on at once, and things, as you said would be less linear, neat and tidy.
  • gummybears: Yes, lol! I forgot about that part!
    Did you mean less confusing and MORE linear - neat and tidy?
    Yeas there is the mourning of the relsationship, the mourning of as lost partner, the creation of a new relationship with said partner, and then mourning AND relationship changes with everyone involved (kids, extended family, and common friends). It’s a big list... And takes awhile.
    Thanks for reminding me!
  • Arlene: No, less linear neat and tidy, since you have several things going on at once, and you might be at one stage in one of the processes, but at another stage with one of the other things you are juggling.....
    You are lucky that you have an ability to look at things clearly. Knowing what you are dealing with and understanding what is going on with you as you do should make it a little easier.
  • Vincent Law: I have come across your research i needed to look at grief and berievement as i personally have needed further overlap on the subject of my concern religious trauma which could be seen in my case as cptsd i shared your 5 stage model with facebook group ptsd i personally do not see family and many friends as i left a high control religuous group and am recovering as i spent my childhood and a lot of my adult life in the group i like your approach and will look into it i hope you will understand i an well on the mend i was looking for focus and what you say is an answer to what to concentrate on next thankyou so much.
  • Johnny Nicks: The latest research (George A Bonano : The other side of sadness) suggests that the 5 stage model is a bit suspect and that many people do not grieve at all. And that there may be some genetic predisposition to resistance. But that wont help those of us who are really grieving bad..
  • Pawn: I wish the sixth stage would come around faster. I don’t feel good :/
  • Johnny Nicks: Sorry to hear pawn. What’s wrong?
  • Pawn: I’m basically too dumb to leave a failed relationship, when it’s obvious it isn’t working out. Ie affection not returned, not talking, and things of that matter. So currently all I do is sit here and wait. Wait for the 6th step and to put this all behind me. I know for a fact the future is indeed better, just have to wait.
  • Lyssabugg: I’m not logged in right now but I wanted to write back...
    Pawn: it actually sounds like you are at acceptance. You’re not happy, but you know it’s over, it sounds like you accepted it. Now is the time to end things, and move on with your life.

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