Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, a Swiss psychiatrist and pioneer in near-death studies, suggested five stages of death. As someone said, dying is the terminal part of living. Death is a process, and many patients experience the dying process in these five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
- The Denial Stage. Most people experience shock when they first hear from their doctor that they are dying. After the initial shock passes, they may refuse the diagnosis or deny that anything is wrong. Some patients never get beyond this denial stage of death.
- The Anger Stage. The anger stage of death follows the denial stage. People who know they are dying usually experience frustration and anger about their situation. They may turn that anger toward a family member or friend, or they may blame God or fate. Often, they blame their doctor or the hospital.
- The Bargaining Stage. After the anger subsides, dying people may enter a bargaining stage of death. This is a time of negotiation, promises, and reaffirmation of faith. Patients may try to negotiate with a doctor, friend, or family member to change their situation. Often, they return to their faith or make promises to others in an attempt to get better.
- The Depression Stage. Dying people usually enter a stage of depression at some point during the death process. They will likely be withdrawn, unable to sleep, and feel hopeless during this stage. Their feelings of hopelessness may encourage thoughts of suicide. Depression is a common reaction to illness and impending death.
- The Acceptance Stage. When dying patients realize that death is inevitable, they usually come to a place of acceptance. Courageous people are able to talk about their death and their struggles with the unknown. People with strong religious beliefs can find comfort in their faith.