3 Dangerous Misconceptions About the Phases of Grief

Everyone reacts and processes events in life differently. For example, to miss the train while leaving for a weekend getaway could make some people go into a panic and it could even ruin their entire weekend by having this rough start. While the next person might look at it as a minor setback that just makes the trip more interesting.

Another example could be a breakup or divorce from a long-term significant other. While one person may be excited about starting a new chapter in life, another may find it hard to embrace their sense of identity without the other person there any more.

Also consider the loss of a job, one person may simply move on and start searching for their next opportunity, trusting fate has something else in store. Another person may shut down and turn to drugs or alcohol for comfort as they cannot see themselves in a different kind of role.

The human experience is unique. Death is no exception. As such, the grieving process will vary greatly from one person to the next.

So how did the idea that all people will follow a cookie-cutter concept of the five phases of grief following the death of a loved one ever become so widely adopted in the first place? By proclaiming a set procedure or process in which the “normal” person goes through during grief can lead to severe emotional scars for those that do not go through the stages as they believed they were supposed to.

According to the Kubler-Ross model, the five phases of grief are:

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance

Keep reading to learn three of the biggest misconceptions about the phases of grief.

Misconception #1: You are Done Grieving Once You Complete all the Phases

Somehow the idea spawned from the five phases of grief that by working through this process, you will at some point be done grieving. That’s it. You’re healed. You will no longer experience the emotions of grief.

Wrong. Nothing can ever replace that loved one. Throughout life, there will be forever moments that bring back the stages of grief that will come and go.

  • A thought of your loved one could trigger sad emotions that feel like depression.
  • Just thinking about how different your life is after their death may still seem unreal, as it did during the initial shock stage.
  • Remembering how their life was at the very end while they were dying can trigger thoughts of what you could have done differently, or what you would give to have them back, which is consistent with bargaining.
  • Even years later, you might still refuse to go through a deceased loved one’s possessions and even change out their room or belongings, which is a form of denial that they are gone.
  • Ultimately, oftentimes on a daily basis, you have to deal with the fact that your loved one will not be with you physically again. You are forced to accept this reality as you work through your day and throughout life.

Misconception #2: You Will Follow the Phases of Grief in Order

Again, we are human. There is no such thing as a cookie-cutter pattern that everyone follows when they are grieving the loss of a loved one. While shock is arguably first for most people, anger also accompanies the immediate emotions of grief. In fact, for many, the loved one may have been ill for quite some time before they actually passed away, therefore the shock may not be quite as intense.

In fact, many people will describe feeling as though they are in several stages at once, and that they come and go randomly

Misconception #3: If You Do Not Express Grief Outwardly, You’re Not Working Through the Phases

Notice the different personalities and how they react during a funeral. Whether it’s a traditional burial service or a memorial specifically held for cremations, people express their grief in different ways.

Some people are outward with their emotions and cry at a ceremony, others hold those feelings back and remain rather stoic. While you may not the second type of person shed a physical tear, it only takes a deep look into their eyes to see their true emotions. For many, expressing grief is a very personal display, and they prefer to stay in their homes and mourn privately.