The Grief Cycle: Kubler Ross Model

Radhika Taori
4 min readJun 4, 2020


Change is the only constant in this world. People stuck at old records tend to become a dinosaur, extinct and unconsidered. Change in one’s life can bring positive results if well planned and executed but if a change occurs suddenly or without any prior notice, it becomes hard to accept and incorporate the truth. It makes a person uncomfortable and in some cases sad, if the change occurred is a personal loss.

In 1969, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross proposed a pattern, a cycle of grief having 5 stages, popularly referred to as DABDA.

· Denial

· Anger

· Bargaining

· Depression

· Acceptance

Let us get an overview of each point in this cycle one by one. Before that we need to understand that it is not necessary that everyone experiences these stages linearly. Some may not even undergo all the 5 stages; some may trace back to the stage they already passed or even get stuck at one of the intermediate step. This cycle was formed as a result of common observations of majority of grieving people.

  1. D.E.N.I.A.L

Commonly known as stage of shock, this stage forces us to live in a world of illusion where we do not want accept the reality. It affects our thinking and acting capability and tanks productivity. We do not want to believe what’s actually happening around us and this may cause us to lose touch with reality. We tend to put a defensive wall around us and do not let the truth sink in. Once this feeling of emptiness starts to fade out, we start alleviating.

2. A.N.G.E.R

Once the reality hits and we understand the seriousness of situation, anger sets in. We may start to blame others, mainly friends and family for the situation we are in or we may be disappointed in ourselves because of reasons like, “I should have given my 100%”, “I wish…”, “Why me?”, “Life is unfair”, etc. Anger is a necessary part of the healing process. The more rage you feel; the more easily it dissipates; the more you heal. When everything seems slipping off your hands, the resentment inside you becomes the support you can hold on.

3. B.A.R.G.A.I.N.I.N.G

As you step in the third stage, you start finding ways to avoid the inescapable. You become too desperate to find a way which is less traumatic or a path that has a different outcome. Basically, we start believing in the saying, “Everything happens for a good reason.”; which obviously is not true in every case. You become so desolate, that you try to make major life changing decisions in order to bring your life back on track. False hope.

4. D.E.P.R.E.S.S.I.O.N

The most crucial and hard stage to pass in this cycle of grief. Everything seems too prodigious and you take zero interest in everything. You don’t feel like talking to anyone and experience hopelessness, guilt, regret and emptiness. You start thinking that everything is pointless and have suicidal thoughts. It is observed that most people remain stuck in this phase if not provided with correct guidance. People start withdrawing from life.

5. A.C.C.E.P.T.A.N.C.E

Acceptance does not mean that everything is back to normal, instead it pushes you to start living with the truth, the grief that you have faced. Your emotions start stabilizing. You start adjusting to your new life and keep on readjusting until you are no more suffocating and break the shell that you have created over the time. You stop resisting to the new changes and move ahead. You evolve, stronger.

Counselling is a strong and a better way to deal with grief. Apart from psychological treatment, support from friends and family is the biggest healer. If any of your loved ones is dealing with such situation, support them; be there for them. They need you, though they may never accept it. The Kubler-Ross Model is a tried and true guideline to deal with grief but there is no right or wrong way to work through your suffering. Stay Healthy.



Radhika Taori

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