7 Stages of Grief PDF

Understand the expanded version of the grief model through the 7 Stages of Grief PDF resource and how we could apply this in client work.

By on Apr 08, 2024.

Fact Checked by Ericka Pingol.

Use Template

What is grief?

Grief is a deeply personal and complex response to loss, particularly the loss of someone or something with which we may have formed a strong bond with. The grieving process could involve a wide range and a combination of emotions, thoughts, and behaviors as we adjust to the reality of our loss. Unlike the misconception that grief is solely an emotional reaction, it affects all aspects of our being. It can show up in many forms, including feelings of sadness, anger, guilt, confusion, and longing; physical symptoms like sleep disturbances and changes in appetite; and cognitive effects such as difficulty concentrating or making decisions.

The grief process is not a linear one nor there is a right or wrong way to do this. Every person experiences grief differently. Not everyone goes through this process in the same way and on the same timeline. Some people may find themselves moving back and forth between different stages of grief, while others may skip certain stages entirely. To further understand how we could all experience grief differently beyond what we may call normal grief, here are other types of the grief experience:

Anticipatory grief

This kind of grief occurs before the loss happens, often in cases of terminal illness. Anticipatory grief allows for a time of preparation and adjustment to the expected loss, but it also involves its own unique pain and sorrow.

Complicated grief

Also known as persistent complex bereavement disorder, complicated grief is characterized by an extended grieving process that interferes with normal functioning. Individuals might experience intense longing, numbness, or denial that lasts many months or even years, often feeling stuck in their grief without progressing toward healing.

Disenfranchised grief

This type of grief occurs when an individual's loss isn't acknowledged or supported by society, possibly due to the nature of the loss or the relationship. Examples include the loss of a pet, a non-traditional relationship, or a miscarriage. The lack of recognition and validation of their grief can make the healing process more difficult for the individual.

Secondary grief

Secondary grief refers to the ripple effects of a loss, impacting areas of life that might not be immediately recognized as related to the original loss. This can include changes in relationships, loss of identity, or life’s expectations and plans going in a much more different direction.

Printable 7 Stages of Grief PDF

Download this 7 Stages of Grief PDF to understand the emotional journey and coping mechanisms associated with loss and bereavement.

Common symptoms of grief

As a mental health professional, understanding that grief has many faces and can show up in many ways is essential for us to provide comprehensive care and treatment plan for people experiencing loss. Grief can have emotional, physical, cognitive, and behavioral symptoms. Recognizing these allows us to have a more empathetic and targeted approach to care.

Emotional symptoms

Grief can bring about a deep emotional response, uniquely affecting clients. The emotional landscape of grief is complex, featuring a range of feelings that may change over time. Here are some key emotional symptoms to be aware of:

  • Sadness: Defined by feelings of sorrow and emptiness, this is perhaps the most commonly recognized symptom of grief. Clients may also feel helpless as they navigate this new reality without their loved ones.
  • Anger: This emotion may arise from feelings of unfairness or powerlessness and can be directed inwardly or outwardly.
  • Guilt: Clients may feel guilty related to actions taken or not taken, contributing to their grief.
  • Anxiety: Concerns about the future and well-being, either of oneself or others, often surface during grief.
  • Relief: Particularly after prolonged illnesses, feelings of relief are common and may coexist with guilt, although many might feel conflicted when feeling this way.

Physical symptoms

The way we experience grief is not solely emotional. It also has a significant physical impact. Recognizing the physical manifestations of grief can help us provide appropriate support. The following are some common physical symptoms seen in a grieving person:

  • Fatigue: An overwhelming tiredness that isn’t alleviated by rest, indicative of the exhaustive nature of grief.
  • Sleep disturbances: Difficulties with sleep, whether insomnia or hypersomnia, are frequent during grief.
  • Changes in appetite: Loss of appetite or overeating may occur as individuals cope with grief.
  • Somatic complaints: Unexplained physical symptoms like headaches and stomachaches can manifest.

Cognitive symptoms

Grief can significantly affect cognitive functions, leading to various challenges in daily life. Recognizing these symptoms is crucial for offering support and guidance. Here’s what may be observed:

  • Concentration difficulties: People who are grieving often struggle with focusing on tasks or retaining information.
  • Disbelief: Accepting the reality of the loss can be difficult, leading to feelings of disbelief.
  • Preoccupation: Thoughts of the loved one or the circumstances of the loss may dominate the mourner’s mind.
  • Impaired decision-making: The ability to make decisions can be affected, making daily choices seem overwhelming.

What are the 7 stages of grief?

Grief is a universal, yet deeply personal experience, often seen by a series of emotional stages that people navigate through as they come to terms with loss. The concept of the stages of grief was first introduced by psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, outlining five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. The grief model has since evolved, which has made way for understanding the seven grief stages. This expanded model includes shock and testing, providing a broader framework for understanding the complexities of grief.

Stage 1: Shock

The initial response might be shock in the immediate aftermath of a loss. It resembles a personal defense mechanism that shields an individual from the full weight of reality. The shock is a cushion for the immediate sorrow, assisting the person in coping with the immediate situation.

Stage 2: Denial

After the shock phase, comes denial. During the denial stage, one may experience a numbed disbelief of reality of the loss. People may consciously or subconsciously refuse to acknowledge what happened, trying to escape the pain.

Stage 3: Anger

As the masking effects of the denial and shock stages begin to fade, the reality and pain re-emerge. The intense emotions are redirected and people could then feel angry. The anger could be aimed at others, a higher being, oneself, or even inanimate objects.

Stage 4: Bargaining

Following anger comes bargaining - an attempt to regain control. It can involve a wide range of “what if” and “if only” statements. Bargaining is a defensive measure to protect oneself from the emotional impacts of the loss.

Stage 5: Depression

Once the reality of the loss is clear and bargaining is no longer a plausible defense, depression may follow. This stage is characterized by feelings of emptiness, despair, regret, or fear - marking the beginning of acceptance of the tragic event.

Stage 6: Testing

A significant stage in the grieving process is testing. In this stage, individuals start seeking realistic solutions for coping with the loss. It involves attempts to find and understand ways of living without the lost entity.

Stage 7: Acceptance and Hope

The last stage is that of acceptance and, eventually, hope. This is a progressive stage where the emotional distress and overwhelm decrease, and the reality of the loss is acknowledged and accepted. While the pain might remain, it becomes manageable through the healing process.

What is on the 7 stages of grief PDF template?

The 7 Stages of Grief PDF template is a comprehensive guide helping mental health professionals navigate this experience with clients especially in grief therapy. The tool is designed to aid in understanding each grief stage and facilitates noting observations and strategies when working with clients experiencing grief. Here's what you will find in the template:

The 7 stages of grief

This section provides concise descriptions of all seven stages of grief - shock, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, testing, and acceptance and hope. Each stage is outlined with common behaviors or feelings a client might experience.

The experience of grief

This easy-to-navigate template includes the following fields:

  • Client information: A designated space to note down straightforward details about the client and their experience of grief.
  • Session goals: This outlines aims such as providing empathetic listening, validating client's emotions, and aiding in identifying their current grief stage.
  • Progress notes: The template includes sections for each grief stage where practitioners can document specific observations during the client sessions. There’s also room to detail any interventions or responses made by the clinician, providing a comprehensive overview of a client's journey through grief.
  • Session summary and planning: At the end of the template, healthcare professionals can summarize observations and interventions implemented, and outline a plan for the next session or suggest future strategies.

7 Stages of Grief PDF example

The following preview shows a sample filled-out template to serve as a guide on how you can use the 7 Stages of Grief PDF resource. We provide a brief description of the seven stages of grief followed by a template for creating progress notes especially when working with clients who are experiencing grief. It can be used alongside other stages of grief worksheets to further help clients navigate this experience. Feel free to check out this resource online by clicking on the link below or downloading it as a PDF file so you can print a copy and have easier access when needed.

Download this free 7 Stages of Grief PDF example here

7 Stages of Grief PDF example

Why use Carepatron as your therapy software?

Using Carepatron as your therapy software can significantly transform how you manage your practice and enhance client care. As a comprehensive therapy software solution, we deliver a unified space to where you can run your practice operations including billing, invoicing, and documentation. Bringing together your administrative tasks into one system cuts the time you spend on paperwork and the business side of the practice so you can focus on client care.

 therapy software
What's the difference between the 5 stages of grief and 7 stages of grief?
What's the difference between the 5 stages of grief and 7 stages of grief?

Commonly asked questions

What's the difference between the 5 stages of grief and 7 stages of grief?

The 5 stages of grief, conceptualized by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, include denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. The 7 stages of grief expand on this model with the addition of two stages: shock or disbelief, which often occurs before denial; and testing, a stage where individuals experiment with different ways to manage their pain before reaching acceptance.

What is the hardest stage of grief?

Identifying the hardest stage of grief can be challenging as it varies significantly from person to person. It may depend on individual circumstances, the relationship to what or who was lost, personal coping mechanisms, and other life factors. Some find the intense emotions of anger or depression particularly challenging, while others may struggle more with the initial shock or the ongoing process of bargaining.

What happens if we don't process our experience of grief?

If a person doesn't actively engage with the grieving process, they may find that the emotions associated with the loss remain unresolved. This avoidance could manifest in a number of ways, such as physical symptoms or an impact on relationships and daily functioning. It's important to remember that grieving is a personal process, and while it cannot be rushed, finding a way to express and work through the loss is critical for long-term emotional health and well-being.

Join 10,000+ teams using Carepatron to be more productive

One app for all your healthcare work