Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, a medical doctor from Switzerland, has described the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. It is important to remember these are the five stages of loss, and family members, also, go through them while grieving the loss of a loved one, (Any loss in life can lead a person into these stages.)
This happens when the person thinks, “this is not happening to me” or “there must be a mistake”. At this time, the person is not ready to deal with the situation. If denial continues, it can inhibit the progression through the other stages. Helping the person through this stage can be as simple as just listening and sharing in their anguish. Do not put on an act by pretending everything is all right.
The person may appear to be angry at friends or family. In reality, the anger is not directed, specifically, at these people but is general anger that says, “Why me?” The person may be angry with God. This is normal anger and a very healthy response indicating they have passed through their denial.
The dying person seeks to bargain with God saying, “I will do anything to change this.”
Grief over what has happened and what will not happen, will lead to depression. The person may begin to grieve over other losses, such as loss of hair, inability to work, and loss of body image. Past losses may add to this feeling.
This develops as the person comes to terms with the change in life’s circumstances. It is helpful for the person to talk and help make future plans. They may begin to say good-bye, and may not want to see many of their relatives and friends, known as withdrawing. In the end, they may want only a few people to stay with them. “My time is short” is a common statement from the patient.