Stages of Loss

This “loss” can be the loss of a wallet, a relationship, or life itself

“pseudo”denial…This denial is very important and therapeutic. Time is needed to cope while assessing and re-grouping.  It’s a lot like “shock” when someone can walk away from an accident and not realize their leg is broken. A father may be very physically-ill and even near-death and still dance at his daughter’s wedding. In almost a natural progression, this “pseudodenial”  is replaced with anger, bargaining, anger, bargaining, and repeated until the potential LOSS becomes a reality.

“total”denial… This denial may remain until the breathing stops (or until the divorce papers are signed.) I once cared for a young woman in labor who “vowed” that the baby wasn’t coming until she saw the crowning little head as she tried to have a bowel movement.


This is a pretty natural feeling when it comes to loss. The negative side is resentment, etc. – toward the doctors ? the disease? the girlfriend ?) The positive of anger bring “change” and “courage”


Donating more to the church, trying a clinical trial of new medication, accepting an “open” marriage, etc. The bargaining is also part of the natural progression. The denial, anger, and bargaining stages weave throughout the mounting reality of a loss until the next stage.


regression or resignation  The feeling that pain won’t stop, the burden or suffering is too great,  or the marriage has definitely failed.  Everything becomes hopeless and the need is to listen and pay attention. What is the “bottom-line?” Do we want suicide?

retreat/refuge . This natural withdrawl  brings a personal solitude or sanctuary. It may be the most difficult time for those close to the individual going through the loss who may not communicate or want to eat or desire to participate as they accept the loss.


As the emotional healing continues, the chronic illness is accepted, the suffering is palliated, a new sense of freedom is felt. The real challenge is much like the serenity prayer: Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.