Most people that have gone through some form of grief/loss have at least heard about the “5 Stages of Grief”: disbelief, yearning, anger, depression and acceptance. These are similar but not identical to the 5 stages people pass through when dealing with a terminal illness: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. A major criticism of the 5 stages is not everyone passes through them in a linear fashion or even at all. However, recent research has shown that in fact the majority of people do follow this process.

The three-year study of 233 individuals interviewed as part of the Yale Bereavement Study found that disbelief reached a peak one month after the loss, then declined. Yearning steadily increased and reached its high point at four months before declining. Anger rises to a peak at five months, and depression peaks at six months. Acceptance is strongly present even from the first but becomes ever more dominant as time passes.

Although I respect that many people do follow this path, I worked with many people who do not necessarily fit the model. For people dealing with grief, I think it is important to know about the five stages, but not use them as the only roadmap, since honoring your loved one and finding meaning can take many different forms.