The Stages Loss




The Stages Loss 



DENIAL:    “This can’t be happening to me.”

                    “My parents aren’t going to get a divorce.” 

“He will still call me.” 

“No, we’re not moving. I don’t want to.” 

* The individual chooses not to accept object reality and then builds a system that is more in keeping with the desired rather than the real world. In order to live with reality, a person must block any stimuli that might threaten to disturb his/her fantasies. 


 – Does not want to discuss the loss. Does not want to think about the loss.

 – Keeps busy – hyperactivity – hyper-maturity – an achiever.

 – Does not feel sad or confused on the surface.

 – Refuses to have fun – refuses to become involved with others.

 – Withdraws from friends – shame–embarrassment (divorce, alcoholism, etc.).

 – Depresses intellectual functioning.

 – Makes less eye contact.

 – Idealizes lost object.

 – Starts arguments with peers and teachers.

 – Feels fear – “What is going to happen to me?”

 –  Feels relief – no more fighting – it’s over – they’ll work it out.

 Coping With Grief and Loss in the School © 2009 Northwest Area Education Agency


ANGER:   “This isn’t fair.”

                             "I hate my parents.”

                             “I don’t even want to see him/her again.”

                             “He/she is the worst teacher in the world.”

                             “Leave me along.”

 * During the anger state, he/she frequently attempts to strike out at those who are involved in the situation. Anger is commonly recognized as an emotional reaction that often results when one is interfered with, injured, or threatened. Activities of overt or concealed attack usually accompany this emotion.


 – Blames others unreasonably for own difficulties.

 – Becomes sullen and withdrawn.

 – Feels resentment to others – especially towards people who have left him/her.

 – Projects emotions for lost person/object on to the teacher.

 – Displays irritability – very little patience – can’t sleep – wets the bed.

 – Experiences fear – I need to be loved – No one loves me.

 – Lowers self-concept.

 Important: ANGER is a way of calling out for help – yet behavior is pushing people away.


“If I do the best I can at this activity, maybe this loss won’t be really true or irreversible.”

                                                                                                                                                                          “I know what I will do to get my way.”

 * When denial and anger have not been productive in achieving desired results, individuals may enter into the bargaining state.

Coping With Grief and Loss in the School © 2009 Northwest Area Education Agency


 – Thinking and behaving as if. . . .”

     If I act the worst way I can, it will take two to handle me ––– that will get them back together.

– Being sick – can move from faking to real sickness.

 – Acting as the absent adult.

 – Using guilt– How could you do this to me?

                              You are not a fair person.

                              You always pick on me.

                               I do the best I can, and it is still not good enough.

– Doing “A” work.

– Causing trouble in school.

 – Crying – tantrums.

 – Overeating – not talking.

 – Talking – not talking.

 – Doing anything to get attention.


DEPRESSION:     “No one loves me!”

                                      “They don’t care about me!”

                               “I’m just dumb and stupid.”

                               “Why try?”

 * Depression may occur when the individual discovers that he/she cannot control or even have a measurable impact on the loss situation that affects his or her life. A type of mourning about the loss sets in. The person begins the grieving process. There are two basic alternatives to open expresses genuine grief: 

1) Internalized – may continue indefinitely; person becomes miserable, blames or feels sorry for self; does not express sadness.

 2) Externalized – strikes out at others (less powerful); verbal lashing out, lying, cheating, stealing.


 – Feels isolated – sad, empty.

 – Feels worthless – self-concept is very low.

 – Regresses to immature behaviors.

 – Fears of loving/being loved.

 – Cries frequently.

 Coping With Grief and Loss in the School © 2009 Northwest Area Education Agency

– Fears abandonment.

– Becomes passive, listless, silent, withdrawn.

– Regrets past behaviors.

– Feels guilt over lost opportunities.


“I don’t like it, but this is the way it is.”

                  “What can I do to make the best of it?”

               “It was a rough thing to happen, but I really learned a lot about myself.”

 *Acceptance comes when the individual learns that there is an objective reality that exists. Although he/she doesn’t like that reality, it is still a reality. The person does not forget the lost person or relationship or hurt but is no longer angry, depressed or preoccupied with it.

 EMOTIONAL AND BEHAVIORAL RESPONSES:         (acceptance stage)

 – Realizes can’t blame self for all unpleasant situations.

 – Realizes the cause or the outcome of these situations may not be in his/her control.

– Tries copying behaviors.

– Improves self-concept.

– Feels a sense of relief.

– Accepts self-responsibility – I am responsible for my behaviors and feelings.

– Begins to trust others again.

– Develops new identity.

From Losing, Learning, Living by Barbara A. Bebensee and Jane R. Pequette.

 Coping With Grief and Loss in the School © 2009 Northwest Area Education Agency