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The 5 stages of grief – Change is a process


stages of grief, change

Persuasion is creating a change in the way the other person thinks or feels about something.

A very inspiring model was developed by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, to describe the different stages of grief. Coping with the death of somebody is one of the most traumatizing experiences in life, and Elisabeth developed the popular theory of the five stages of grief in her book “On death and dying” (1969).

Her theory states that when people have to deal with tragic news, they will go through five typical stages of grief:

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

Those stages would reflect defense and coping mechanisms.


This is not happening. This can’t be true.

When learning the sad news, it is difficult to accept the reality of change. The bigger the change, the stronger the temptation to protect oneself against it by simply ignoring it. For those who have seen Erik the Viking, you might remember that scene where a whole population drowns because they do not want to admit the truth. The truth that their city is sinking in the sea.


Go to hell, you #@&&&@$

When the bad news start to sink in, the consequences seem unacceptable. Emotions start to appear, such as anger. Anger can be directed about anything that comes nearby. Don’t stay close.



What if…

After the emotions have worn off, the logical mind wakes up and starts to find a way out by bargaining. But if change is here to stay, bargaining will stay vain and lead to the next stage.




This is the moment people associate the most with grieving. The loss has become a reality. The energy level is low, and feels like being trapped in a dark tunnel that never ends. Time for ice-cream and sad songs.


Ok. I can live with it.

The final stage of the journey, when the sad reality has been fully accepted and the person can move on.


This model is appealing and has gained massive popularity throughout the years.  It’s also used a lot in pop culture.


Studies are ambiguous about this model, finding a very significant amount of deviation from this model.

In response, Elisabeth would have said that:

  1. Going through the stages is not a linear process. You might skip some of them or experience them in a different orders.
  2. Those stages are not aimed at describing the full pattern of emotions that somebody will feel when grieving.
  3. We should not force somebody through the stages and let people work it by themselves

So knowing that, how can we use this incredibly popular but disappointing model?


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Vinh Ly is a marketing and persuasion expert. Read more in the "About Me" page.