Five Stages of Grief

"There are five stages of grief. Try not to go through them all at once."

Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, a famed Swiss psychiatrist, noticed that many of her patients who were terminally ill exhibited as many as five stages of grief. This became well-known in pop culture as the Kübler-Ross model, and it contains the following stages: note 

  1. Denial: This isn't happening; this is nothing. I'll just pretend it isn't there and it'll go away.
  2. Anger: This isn't right! I DON'T DESERVE THIS!
  3. Bargaining: God, if you're up there, I promise to do everything I can to make this world better for the rest of my life.
  4. Depression: (Ultra-depressed crying).
  5. Acceptance: Well, everybody dies someday. I guess the only way to be able to live while I'm here is to accept it.

Of course, Hollywood being what it is, when it gives this model of grief, all five stages of grief are displayed, always in this order, and if Played for Laughs all within ten seconds of each other. This despite the fact that Kübler-Ross herself admitted that not all patients went through all five stages, and not all of them went through them in that order; she also originally focused strictly on how the terminally ill came to terms with their own impending deaths, which may or may not adhere more closely to the pattern. This raises the question, given by one critic, of how exactly they can be called stages if they're not universal. But that's a discussion for somewhere else. In real life, in the words of Kübler-Ross herself, "our grief is as individual as our lives." Death, of course, is but one trigger.

Also, these stages tend to apply to all grieving characters, although her work, again, was with those actually dying and not, say, the bereaved; later research suggests that the bereaved typically accept the death right away — within seconds of a loved one's passing—and rarely engage in denying the death (if you are not mentally ill in some way, denial is sort of pointless). Of course, in Hollywood, the stages will likely only be applied to those grieving someone else's death. See also Stages of Monster Grief, where formerly human characters adapt to their new condition.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • In episodes 18 and 19 of Code Geass R2, Lelouch was going through this when Nunnally was presumably killed during the FLEIJA explosion.
  • One of the many Epileptic Trees about Neon Genesis Evangelion is that the five EVA pilots were each going through/representing a different stage. Basically take the above numbers and apply them to them by "Child", but switch 3 and 4:
    Rei: Denial (maybe)
    Asuka: Anger (yes)
    Shinji: Despair (yes)
    Toji: Bargaining (yes)
    Kaworu: Acceptance (sort of)
  • One Piece: Luffy goes through these (except bargaining) after Ace's death. After waking up from his Angst Coma, he begins a destructive rampage around Amazon Lily, believing the whole ordeal was just a nightmare that he'll snap out of if he keeps hurting himself, despite having serious wounds that could open up and kill him. Once he finally realizes that Ace is dead, he breaks down and nearly considers giving up his journey to become Pirate King. Jinbei helps him get to acceptance by reminding him that he still has his crew.
  • Simon from Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann goes through all of these (except bargaining) after Kamina's death.
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist, the Elric brothers are shown to have gone through these after their mother's death.
    Denial: Implied by how the Elric brothers are convinced their mother will not be dead for long.
    Anger: Edward has this reaction at her funeral, but is not angry at his mother- he's angry at his father (who he blames for his mother's death).
    Bargaining: The attempt to bring their mother Back from the Dead.
    Despair: After their effort fails with horrible results, the Elric brothers become very depressed.
    Acceptance: They accept the fact that dead people cannot come back to life, and focus their efforts on restoring their bodies.
  • Played for Laughs in K-On!, when Mio goes through these stages as she is forced to play Romeo for the school festival.
  • Momo Hinamori from Bleach goes hard through the first stage, Denial, after Aizen stabs her to near death and betrays the Soul Society, which completely shatters the poor girl's view of her whole world.
  • In Digimon Tamers, Juri/Jeri Katou goes through this after her digimon partner was impaled and absorbed/eaten in front of her, which in turn released repressed memories of her mother's death which she took a realistic amount of time to go through (a few weeks) especially considering that she was being continuously Mind Raped at the time.
  • Much like the Neon Genesis Evangelion example above, it can be said that the three main characters of Berserk all represent some stage of grief and how they deal with it, since they've all been through a ridiculous Trauma Conga Line for us to deduce this:
    Guts: Anger, Denial, Depression
    Griffith: Depression, Bargaining
    Casca: Denial
    • None of them have quite grappled with acceptance yet.
  • In Tiger & Bunny, Barnaby goes through stages 2 through 4 all at once at the prospect of Kotetsu's supposed death. The former angrily yells at the latter, saying they weren't the kind of person to give up, crying hysterically and bargaining by claiming Kotetsu can't die yet because they haven't tried Barnaby's fried rice.
  • Saber of Fate/stay night experiences four stages due to the collapse of her kingdom. At first she denied the kingdom was lost and fought to restore peace, only to be fatally injured. While dying she fell into depression over her failure and made a bargain with Alaya to become a Counter-Guardian in exchange for changing her decision to become king. Shirou's resolve to accept what he has lost and continue living his life convinces Saber to accept her past and abandon the bargain.
  • In Trigun, this is sadly subverted just when you think this trope couldn't get more tragic. Nicholas Wolfwood goes through the stages in a mixed-up order while he is dying. He starts with Acceptance, then panics and goes into Bargaining ("No, I want to stay with them! There's so much I need to do!"), Depression (starts crying as he wonders if everything he did was a mistake), and dies trapped in Anger/Denial ("I did not want to die this way!").
  • In CLANNAD, Kotomi coming to terms with her parents' deaths was a rather mixed-up process which took several years: First, when her parents said they had to go on a business trip, she jumped straight into Anger, accusing them as liars for not wanting to come to her birthday party. Then she got a visit by a strange man who hinted that her parents died in a plane crash, leading her into Denial, shooing off the man and coming to believe that he was a "bad person" because he wanted something of her father's. She then went right into Bargaining, begging to God that she'll study hard, be a good girl and try to decipher what her parents were researching if He'll bring back her parents. But when she saw a report about the plane crash on television, she sunk into Depression, which led to her trying to burn the research paper the man was asking about which was really a catalogue for teddy bears and collapsing in tears as the burning paper set fire to the whole room. She eventually grows up having reached some level of Acceptance, making good of her Bargaining by studying diligently in and out of school, trying to "atone" for what she did that day. But she doesn't reach full Acceptance until the day that the strange man finally comes back, carrying her father's long lost briefcase - inside of which is the teddy bear her parents bought for her birthday.
  • Tuka Luna Marceau suffers from this in Gate. After a Fire Dragon attacks her village, her father throws her into a well. She ends up being the Sole Survivor to the attack, and continuously asks for extra food and clothing for someone who she's sure will show up. It isn't until Yao Ducy, in an attempt to get the Japanese Self Defense Forces to help kill said dragon attacking her people's lands, forces the truth on her, which she doesn't take too well and continues to deny her father is dead. Itami is then forced to help her overcome this issue, and help Yao defeat the dragon at the same time.
  • Chi's Sweet Home: Chi goes through these when Blackie moves away, all in the matter of two manga chapters/anime episodes.
  • In Fairy Tail, Gray goes through this in response to Juvia's apparent death by Heroic Suicide and then giving him a blood transfusion with the last of her strength, in Chapter 499, albeit not in order. He goes through Denial when he's shocked at what he just saw, Bargaining when he begs for her to wake up, saying that he will take her feelings more seriously if she dos, Anger when he launches into a Roaring Rampage of Revenge against Invel, the one who forced them to fight one another and kill themselves, and Depression when he realizes Juvia's never coming back and stops hitting Invel. Currently, he has yet to reach Acceptance or realize that Juvia is, in fact, still alive.

    Card Games 
  • This happens to many poker players after a bad beat, and often in the quite fast version, despite being Serious Business:
    1. NOOOOOOOOOOOO! He beat my pocket aces with pocket kings? (Or pocket queens, or pocket deuces, or even seven-two off...)
    2. You goddamn donk! I'll kill you, and everyone who looks like you!
    3. I will complain to the poker room. This game was rigged, there's no way this was legit!
    4. Nah, they'll never believe me. There's nothing I can do. I'm such a loser.
    5. Oh well, that's poker.
      • Some can get stuck in either the anger or bargaining phase for a few hands and make bad decisions. This is commonly known as being "on tilt".

    Comic Books 
  • Fallen Son, a 5-issue limited series, dealt with The Death of Captain America by going through each of the five stages with a different Marvel character. Wolverine experiences denial; the Avengers go through anger; Hawkeye attempts to bargain Cap back; Spider-Man falls into despair, and Iron Man leads all of the Marvel superheroes in accepting that he's really dead.
  • Issues 2-6 of the Knights of the Old Republic comics go through the stages in order.
  • The Joker also goes through the stages in a matter of seconds in the miniseries The Last Laugh, after he becomes convinced he has a fatal tumor. However, this is a subversion, as someone almost immediately points out that no one really goes through the stages that fast, and therefore, the Joker must have been acting. In reality, he is all but accepting of his perceived fate.
  • A side-story in Spider-Man (Brand New Day era) dealt with Flash Thompson coping with the loss of his legs. When he becomes depressed, he goes through the stages in the opposite of the conventional order. He eventually arrives at what Peter terms "stage 0: grace".
  • In a Donald Duck-story where Scrooge loses all his money in a tornado, he starts going through this, with the nephews lamp-shading: 'Now he's going through the five stages of loss'. Scrooge goes through denial, (no, the money can't be gone!) anger, (*cursing the tornado*) bargaining, (please, please give me my money back!) despair (*crying*), but just as the nephews says that the final stage is acceptance, Scrooge goes straight back denial, that the money is not lost forever, and that he will find them again. He was right. The story, however, was so full of unlikely events Don Rosa decided to disregard it while working on The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck.
  • In All Fall Down, it's the central theme of the book.
  • Played with by Lex Luthor in DC's The Black Ring. When confronting Death after a particularly messy plane incident, Luthor starts to quickly cycle through the stages. He gets as far as "bargaining" until Death points out what he's doing. He then tries to act depressed to play on Death's sympathies. Her response basically amounts to "Nice try, honey, but I wasn't born yesterday." In the end, Luthor lets her know he's not accepting a damned thing, and he will "find a way to beat this."
  • Batman still hasn't reached the "Acceptance" stage, even decades after his parents' deaths. It's likely he never will.

    Fan Works 
  • This fic, Five Stages, shows Old Snake reacting to his aging.
  • A chapter of Xanatos does this with Sayu, who goes through at least four of the five as she's being kidnapped
  • An odd variation is introduced in Calvin and Hobbes: The Series:
    Calvin has three steps of response when he hears that a camping trip is coming. Step one: three minute long screams. Step two: denial. Step three: Doing everything in his physical power to prevent himself from going.
    Also referenced in-story
    Hobbes: We're in mid-step two, right?
  • The stages are discussed in the Back to the Future fic ''4am, This Letter," while Marty spends his first night in Doc Browns house in 1955 and thinks about seeing Doc getting killed in 1985. Marty cannot remember the correct order of the stages, but he vows he will not let himself go through all five of them.
  • Yayoi talks about this in SplitxEnd, one of the stories for Horseshoes and Hand Grenades in regards to JK. He's split between depression for "that incident" presumably about his little sister's death, and denial around Gentaro's death.
  • Fai, Sakura, Kurogane and Syaoran embodies various aspects of the stages of grief in Shatterheart:
    • Fai and Sakura represent Denial as they refuse to acknowledge Syaoran because doing so forces them to realize the clone's betrayal and the loss of their friend.
    • Kurogane represents Anger as he refuses to let himself to feel any sort of sadness and deals with it by getting angry.
    • Syaoran represents Depression as he mostly wallows in guilt and despair.
    • All of them eventually turn to Acceptance when they realize there's nothing they can change and trying would be too high of a cost.
  • In Travels of the Trifecta, Paul goes through the Five Stages after finding out that he's terminally ill, with the Anger and Barganing stages directly mentioned at the end of Chapter 13.

    Films — Animated 
  • Inside Out is a study of the stages by way of Anthropomorphic Personification. After 11-year-old Riley leaves all her friends and familiar surroundings and moves across the country, her Joy attempts to keep her cheerful, preventing her Sadness from dwelling on the old memories and tainting them (denial). In the process, the memories are rendered inaccessible, the parts of Riley's personality they power become nonfunctional, and Joy and Sadness become lost in Riley's mind. Without Sadness to provide appropriate responses to her new surroundings, Riley's Anger takes over. He plants the idea to run away to Minnesota, where she was happy (bargaining), and depression sets in and prevents the emotions from changing her course — except for Sadness, whose return reminds Riley that abandoning her family would make her feel worse. Viewing her previously Joyful memories through a Sad lens allows Riley to Accept her new circumstances.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Blade Runner, Roy Batty goes through them all:
    • Denial: Escaping in the hopes of getting more life.
    • Anger: "Fiery the angels fell; deep thunder rolled around their shores; burning with the fires of Orc!"
    • Bargaining: His attempt to extract a longer life span from his own creator.
    • Depression: When he realises it's already too late for his comrades and howls with grief over Priss' body
    • Acceptance: His famous dying speech expresses only regret that the things he knows will become lost forever.
  • Lampshaded in the movie All That Jazz. As Roy Scheider's character experiences the stages while recovering from a heart attack, he points out that it sounds like the name of a Jewish law firm: "Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Despair and Acceptance, how can I direct your call?"
    • This is also worked into a Shout-Out to Bob Fosse's previous film Lenny, as Scheider (like Fosse) is the director of a movie about a Lenny Bruce-like comic who acts out the five stages.
  • In The Rundown, Beck (The Rock) mentions something similar to the five stages.
    Beck: You're just like every other jackass that I've taken down. First they try to run, then they try to fight, then they try to negotiate. And when that doesn't work, you're gonna do what all the others do when they realize it's over.
    Travis: Oh, yeah? What's that?
    Beck: You're gonna get down on your hands and knees and you're gonna beg me for a break.
  • Going blind, Shinnojo in Love and Honor goes through Denial, then Anger and Despair at once and then manages Acceptance. He leaves out Bargaining though, perhaps it's below a Samurai to chaffer.
  • Groundhog Day has the main character going through precisely these stages as he learns how to deal with the eponymous day. First he can't believe it (denial), then he does all sorts of anti-social things like over-eating, robbing the armored car, sleeping with all of the attractive women in town, etc (anger), then he tries to figure out what he can do (bargaining), then he just gives up and falls back into bed and/or tries to kill himself (despair), until finally he accepts the situation and becomes a better person.
  • Referenced (as "seven stages of grief") in Look Both Ways by Meryl, who asks Nick, "What's the point in knowing where you're up to if you've still got to go through it anyway?"
  • Applies to Jeff's character development in Hard Candy:
    • Denial: After he's drugged and tied in the chair, most of what he says is pure denial. He makes excuses and comes up with reasons for his behavior, all lies, like why he didn't talk to the women in the chat room as soon as he found out they were older than Hayley. He says, "I'm a decent guy, ask anyone." Can't get much more textbook than that when it comes to denial.
    • Anger: We see flashes of this throughout, but very soon after the line quoted above, Hayley starts really tearing into him and his anger rises to the surface. Cut to scene in bedroom, and we see, while he is still trying to convince her that she's wrong, his anger is barely contained now, his denials are not calm and reasonable any longer, but screamed at her. From that point on, anger tinges everything. Hayley even mocks him, saying, "A little angry, are we?"
    • Bargaining: This one should be obvious. He's tied to a table. She tells him she's going to castrate him. He begs. He pleads. He promises he'll turn himself in, he'll do anything she wants. Actually, even before he knows what she's planning, he tells her to call the cops, he'll go to jail.
    • Depression: This is a tough one, because it's hard to keep the action moving, but while Hayley is "castrating" Jeff, he lies there, dormant, silent. The fight has gone out of him. When she asks him if he wants some souvenirs, holding his "testicles" in front of him, he doesn't respond. He cries. But, life goes on and he's not down for the count. Denial and anger return, especially anger.
    • Acceptance: "You're right. You're right, Hayley. Thank you. Thank you. This is me. This is who I am. Thank you. Thank you for helping me see it."

  • In the Star Trek Expanded Universe novel I, Q, the entire universe goes through these stages just prior to the supposed "Big Crunch". Subverted in that Q's unwillingness to accept the end of the universe convinces its creator to keep it going.
    • Also subverted because None of it really happened; the realms representing each stage that the main characters pass through were set up by the Continuum to keep Q occupied, so he wouldn't try to stop it.
  • Protagonist Charlie Asher in the novel A Dirty Job reads about the Kübler-Ross model and comments that he has gone through all the stages in the wake of his wife's death - and the revelation that he is Death.
  • Harry Potter goes through the Five Stages of Grief after Sirius dies at the end of Book Five. Later on, when Dumbledore is killed, he goes through Denial and Anger for much of Book Seven, Bargaining when he seeks to destroy all remaining Horcruxes (made more evident when he asks the spirit of the daughter of Rowena Ravenclaw for information about one of them), and Depression alongside Acceptance when he discovers that he has to temporarily die as well to get rid of the Horcrux that is inside his body. Harry becomes a fully realized character by the time he and Voldemort settle their definitive battle.
  • MARZENA Transhuman Ambrosia gives us the Five Stages of Grief according to Lövheim's Cube (+1): 1. Fear (Pure Dopamine), 2. Rage (Dopamine + Noradrenaline), 3. Shame (Nothing), 4. Angst (Pure Noradrenaline), 5. Contempt (Pure Serotonin), 6. Secret Bonus Backdoor Joy (Dopamine + Serotonin)

    Live-Action TV 
  • Sesame Street: What Big Bird goes through in the groundbreaking "Goodbye, Mr. Hooper" segment. In a matter of minutes, Big Bird's emotions run the gamut and it was so well done.
  • In Smallville, after Reckoning when Jonathan dies. Clark seems to skip the Denial (since his death has been Foreshadowed quite a bit), taking out his Anger on superpowered criminals, "Bargains" with Jor-El in a deleted scene, sees his father's spirit due to Depression, and finally Accepting it and moving on.
  • The sixth-season premiere of Frasier sees him going through the stages after being fired from his famed radio job, each one indicated by the show's signature title cards. The episode ends with Niles saying he thinks his divorce is going to go smoothly. Followed by the title card Denial.
  • The 5th-season Scrubs episode "My Five Stages" has J.D. and Dr. Cox going through the stages over the death of Mrs. Wilk.
  • Summer in The O.C. at the beginning of the fourth season.
  • In a Monk episode, Monk rapidly goes through the stages of grief when his psychiatrist retires. And thanks to his OCD, he goes through them over and over again throughout the episode.
  • In Dead Like Me, George narrates as she goes through the stages after her own death.
  • In an episode of Popular, April Tuna is presumed dead after a car accident. That episode is broken into segments each named after the five stages. However, in the end of "Denial" April shows up at her own memorial service very much alive. Turns out her car was stolen by a junkie who proceeded to crash it. The "Acceptance" segment ends up being the traditional happy ending.
  • In one episode House, being the Jerkass that he is, criticises and all but mocks Cameron for becoming overly emotionally invested in a terminally ill patient, writing the five stages on his whiteboard and crossing them off one by one as she goes through them.
    House: Remarkable. You just made a near-seamless transition from Anger to Bargaining.
  • Stephen Colbert pulled out a Kübler-Ross pamphlet while trying to cope with the end of the 2008 Democratic primary season. "Stage one, Denial, I've never had that... Stage two, Anger, THERE you go!", screwed up the pamphlet and threw it away. "I am BACK!"
  • Parodied in an episode of Wings. When Lowell refuses to believe that his friend Weeb is dead, Brian notes that he's in denial and lists the rest of the stages he'll go through. Lowell then comes back into the room and expresses each stage one after another, in order, in the space of a few seconds.
    Lowell: I'M ANGRY AS HELL AT WEEB FOR DYING! But I'd trade anything to get him back. [crying] Oh, what's the use! It's hopeless! He's gone! [recovering] But what are you gonna do? Life goes on.
  • Star Trek: Voyager ("Imperfection"). Seven of Nine goes through the stages when she realises a Borg implant in her head is fatally malfunctioning and can't be replaced.
    Icheb: Why is she angry at me?
    EMH: She's not angry at you. She's just... angry.
  • Dropped at the end of the second part of the Grey's Anatomy sixth season premiere, ostensibly for coming to terms with George's death, but the stages are read off as Chief Webber addresses the staff that Seattle Grace would be merging with rival hospital Mercy West.
  • In the Doctor Who story The End of Time, when Wilf knocks four times to be released from the radiation chamber, the Doctor, realizing that he would have to absorb the radiation to free Wilf, goes through the Five Stages within twenty seconds, before making his Heroic Sacrifice to save Wilf.
    • He also seems to have gone through all of the stages at least once over the course of the specials since his death was prophesied in "Planet of the Dead".
    • In "The Family of Blood", John Smith learns that his life is a lie and must give up everything to become the Doctor again. Also a Tear Jerker.
    • In "Face the Raven" the Doctor and Clara rapidly go through all five stages together when Clara learns she only has a few minutes to live:
      • Denial: The Doctor even says "This isn't happening. It's not happening."
      • Anger: The Doctor enters into a terrifying Freak Out against the woman he holds responsible for this, threatening to "rain hell" upon her for the rest of time. And he even barks at Clara.
      • Bargaining: Clara comes close to pleading to the Doctor, "We can fix this. We always fix it" and the aforementioned freak out against Mayor Me by the Doctor also includes this.
      • Depression: The Doctor enters into Heroic B.S.O.D. mode, at one point asking what the point is of being a Doctor if he can't cure Clara.
      • Acceptance: Clara reaches this point. The Doctor doesn't, and since he's promptly sent off to a lonely torture chamber where he has no one to help him through his loss, he ultimately spends the next 4.5 billion years cycling through Anger, Denial, Depression and ultimately a very dangerous form of Bargaining in the two episodes that follow, "Heaven Sent" and "Hell Bent". He becomes willing to risk the safety of the entire universe over the chance to bring her back from the dead. He finally has a Heel Realization and reaches the stage of Acceptance; tragically, because he is so psychologically damaged, being able to function as a hero again requires him to not only lose his beloved Clara, but also memories of the things that made him love her in the first place.
  • On Law & Order, after Mike Logan's partner is murdered, his grief counsellor Olivet tells him that he's going through the stages.
  • 30 Rock:
    • Tracy claims to be going through the stages of grief when he's convinced he's about to be murdered, but he has a rather... unique take on what they actually are.
    Tracy: I'm just going through the classic stages of grief. Fear, denial, horniness, wisdom, sleepiness... and now, depression.
    Kenneth: What about anger?
    Tracy: No, I don't want to do anger! You can't make me!
  • The two-hour (or two-part, depending) 6th season premiere of Buffy the Vampire Slayer is named after stage 3, a direct reference to dealing with Buffy's death in the previous season finale. Specifically, the gang offering the gods a dangerous, painful, Black Magic sacrifice in exchange for Buffy's life.
    • Played for Laughs in "Intervention" when the Scoobies believe Buffy is dealing with her grief over her mother's death by boinking evil vampire Spike; actually he was screwing a Sex Bot that Spike has had built to resemble Buffy.
    Anya: We're kind of thrown by the you having sex with Spike.
    Buffy: The ... who whating how with huh?
    Anya: Okay, that's denial. That usually comes before anger.
    Buffy: I am not having sex with Spike!
    Anya: Anger.
    • There's a fan theory that the overall arc of Buffy's characterisation through the whole series is based on the Kubler-Ross stages:
      • Season One: Denial
      • Season Two: Anger
      • Seasons Three and Four: Bargaining
      • Seasons Five, Six, and Seven: Depression
      • The final episode: Acceptance
  • The Tenacious D series parodies this in the episode "Death Of A Dream." The five stages of losing a rock star dream: Anger, Denial, Door-To-Door Rocking, Temp Job, Acceptance.
  • In Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide, Moze (whose backpack - with her diary inside - went missing) goes through these very quickly, with 'anger' coming up. A lot. And in this case, it's just four stages (he skips the bargaining part).
  • An interesting twist in Blackadder, in which a season 3 episode features suicide pills, which stages are depression, loss of temper, forgetfulness and happiness, in that order. Oh, and before you die you jump in a corner.
  • In the That '70s Show episode "Grandma's Dead", when Red's mother dies, Kitty tells him about the five stages. Red says that he's got two stages: anger and drinking.
  • An episode of Community goes through all five stages as the group realizes that they failed biology, even though a recurring character died at the same time. Anger occurs during the man's funeral. Also in that episode, Psych major Britta mentioned denial as the first stage of grief. She's called out on it and, sure enough, that's the only stage she knows.
  • In the "In My Time Of Dying" episode of Supernatural these are played with which is even lampshaded by the reaper, who says "Stage three: Bargaining."
  • Agron can be seen doing this, though in a different order, in Spartacus: Blood and Sand and its sequels. After his brother is killed, he jumps to Anger by going on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge, and stays that way for most of the series. Towards the end of the show he is crucified, and then enters Denial over the state of his injuries. He falls into Depression when he realizes he can't fight, and then does Bargaining when he finds a way to fight anyway. And then after they lose the war, and Spartacus dies, he reaches acceptance, when he leaves behind his weapons and leads the survivors to safety and freedom.
  • Being a show about a support group for people who have experienced loss, Go On has a lot of this. Ryan seems stuck in Stage One, but often goes through the other stages to further the episode's Aesop, and some members of the group represent different stages (e.g. Anne represents anger, Danny represents denial, etc.)
  • A rare case of it happening without attention being drawn to it happened in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The Loss." Troi loses her ability to sense emotions and shortly goes through every stage, only skipping over bargaining. She at first shrugs it off and says the ability will simply come back (denial), then begins to lash out at Dr. Crusher for not finding a cure (anger), breaks down crying in her quarters (depression), then after some words from Riker and Guinan, returns to her work and helps save the day (acceptance). The portrayal is more subtle in that she doesn't suddenly snap from one stage to the other and can be seen sliding between them (while still in denial, she snaps at Riker for being sympathetic before exploding at Beverly; while still angry over the situation, she begins cutting off ties with her friends because she's becoming too depressed to keep going).
  • On the New Girl episode "Goldmine", Schmidt goes through the five stages after learning that Cece is thinking of having breast reduction surgery.
  • In The Nanny episode "Ode to Barbara Joan", Fran was explaining how kids deal with disappointment, with C.C. experiencing each stage outside in the garden:
    Fran: They're not going to tell their father when they're dying inside. They give off signals. They act morose.
    (C.C. mopes)
    Sometimes they even have fits of anger.
    (She smashes a pot)
    And, finally, if they're despondent enough, they might even be driven to acts of violence.
    (She stomps on Niles's foot, which had been causing him agony from corns)
    And that concludes today's audio/visual demonstration.
  • Leslie Knope on Parks and Recreation went through her own version of the five stages of grief after getting kicked off her city council position.
    Leslie: I've gone through the five stages of grief: Denial, anger, internet commenting, cat adoption, african dance, cat-returning-to-the-adoption-place, watching all the episodes of Murphy Brown, and not giving a flying fart. How many stages is that? I don't know. The point is, I'm fine now.
  • People Of Earth plays this for laughs in Episode 3, when Don learns of Kurt's death, as he goes through the whole process in about 30 seconds. And judging by Jeff's reaction, this is pretty regular coming from him.
  • The Librarians 2014: In "And The Eternal Question", Cassandra goes through this as she deals with her brain tumor hitting the terminal stages.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Slightly averted in Doonesbury when B.D. lost his leg in Iraq and his doctor was explaining the five steps to his wife.
    Doctor: There are generally five stages. The first is denial...
    B.D.: Son of a Bitch!
    Doctor: Some skip straight to anger...
  • Dilbert:
    • Played with in the strip "The Seven Stages of a Performance Review".
    • In another strip, Dogbert is shown responding to Dilbert's death, going through denial, then anger, and finally thrift: "No coffin, just wrap the corpse in newspaper. He would have wanted it that way."
  • In the Opus strip seen here, the five stages are applied not to tragedy, but to having to "go green" and use a hybrid car; Steve makes it to "Acceptance", but shifts back to "Anger" quickly. However, in the next week's strip, Steve manages to achieve the "rare sixth and final stage", "Smug Satisfaction".

  • The final episode of The Now Show LIVE! Olympics Special showed the five stages of grief as they applied to the end of the Olympics. Denial was claiming they'd started before the opening ceremony, so they'd keep going after the closing ceremony, right? Bargaining was trying to convince yourself other sporting events were just as interesting. Depression was turning on the regular news.

    Video Games 
  • The five stages theme is used extensively in the freeware Adventure Game Eternally Us. Every scene in the game is based on one of the stages.
  • Solace is a short freeware Shoot 'em Up with five stages. Each stage corresponds to a stage of grief and attempts to reflect that stage in the gameplay.
  • The four stages of rampancy in the Marathon series (Melancholia, Anger, Jealousy, Metastability) bear a strong resemblance to this. Marathon: RED's three chapters are titled "Resistance", "Desperation", and "Acceptance".
  • Quite an easy example to miss, but in the Alpha Protocol mission where you assault Konstantin Brayko's mission he'll go through the five stages of grief depending on when/if you choose to execute him in the conversation. Shoot him straight away and he'll barely have time to utter a "no..!", whereas if you execute right at the very end he'll go out with a joke.
  • Here's an interesting argument that the five main areas in The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask match up to the five stages:
    • The Hub Level, Clock Town, is denial - everyone can see the moon is falling, but no-one can actually deal with it. Also an example of Elephant in the Living Room.
    • Woodfall, most particularly Southern Swamp and Deku Palace, is anger: The royal family is in search for a scapegoat due to the disappearance of the Deku Princess, and said scapegoat was actually helping the Princess before her capture. There's also the tourist guide blaming his son Tingle for his childish behavior, despite that happening because of his lack of family attention.
    • Snowhead is bargaining: Holding Out for a Hero, specifically Darmani begging Link to solve the problem of the region's climate since Darmani himself died in the attempt.
    • Great Bay is depression: Lulu laments the loss of her eggs, Mikau laments having been unable to retrieve them, and the Fisherman laments that the murky water rendered fishing impossible.
    • Ikana Valley is acceptance, because almost everyone there is already dead anyway, and is only waiting for one like Link to ease their regrets and lift the curse that originates from Stone Tower.
    • The theory also suggests that Link himself goes through the five stages of grief due to his self-exile that resulted from his friend Navi having bid him farewell (and according to Hyrule Historia and the confirmation that he eventually became the Hero's Shade in Twilight Princess, he is unable to reach the stage of acceptance until that very game, after his descendant learns all of the Hidden Skills).
  • Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater: Before Naked Snake confronts The Boss, he faces the Cobra Unit. Each member of the unit "carries an emotion into battle", which each somewhat align with a stage of grief. Notable in that the last one he faces is The Fury, foreshadowing his Start of Darkness.
  • Final Fantasy XIII plays this out with Lightning, Snow, Sazh, Hope and Vanille wrestling with individual stages as Serah is turned to crystal and they're branded l'Cie to destroy Cocoon.
    • Lightning is Anger, deciding if it's her fate to destroy Cocoon, then fine, that's exactly what she'll do and woe to anyone who tries to stop her. Hope also gets Anger, directed at Snow, who he blames for his mother's death and resolves to kill in revenge.
    • Snow is Bargaining, believing that as long as he tries hard enough, there must be a way to set everything right. There's a dash of Denial as well, as if there isn't a way, he's got a lot of guilt to own up to and he knows it.
    • Sazh is Acceptance, deciding to turn himself in and be executed because he's tired of running and just wants to see his son again before he dies.
    • Vanille is Denial, saying outright she acts happy, cheerful and excited to cover up her deep guilt over inadvertently being the cause of a lot of the story's conflicts.
  • At one point in the first episode of You Don't Know Jack 2011, Cookie Masterson asked this question: "Suppose that I Can't Believe It's Not Butter had a line of products based on the Five Stages of Grief. After I Can't Believe It's Not Butter (Denial), which would come next in the line?" The possible answers were:
    • I'm Very Angry That It's Not Butter (Anger)
    • I've Lost All Hope, Because It's Not Butter (Depression)
    • I've Come To Terms With It Not Being Butter (Acceptance)
    • I'll Do Anything To Turn It Into Butter (Bargaining)
  • Yukari Takeba in Persona 3: The Answer surprisingly follows through these stages, which explains her more aggressive attitude throughout the game:
    • Denial: Ever since the death of the main character, Yukari left the dorm alone and attended cram school in order to forget that the main character died. However, it fails to do anything to her as she's eventually called back to deal with the Abyss of Time. And then...
    • Anger: Finding out that Aigis inherited the Wild Card, not her, infuriated Yukari further that she started acting hostile and cold towards Aigis.
    • Bargaining: Later, Yukari found out that there was a way to reunite with the main character by using the key to go back in time before fighting Nyx and fight it out again. Driven by her love and grief, Yukari decided to take the chance, against everyone else's suggestion (Excepting Mitsuru), and wanted to use the key to go back in time. This causes a friction in the SEES and they end up 'fighting to the death'.
    • Depression: Yukari lost, but was restored by Aigis. Still in frustration, Yukari wrestled the key from Aigis... and failed again. In anguish, Yukari finally revealed that she's still unable to get over the death of the main character and has lost hope, only driven with the prospect of reuniting with him again. It was at this point that Mitsuru comforted her and promised that she'll stay with her through hard and good times, enabling Yukari to cry out all her griefs.
    • Acceptance: After fighting Erebus and realizing the importance of the main character's death and sacrifice, Yukari finally accepted that she has to move on and do her part in making humans happy for his sake. She's no longer hostile to Aigis and resumes being the good ol' Yukari Takeba. And by the time of Persona 4: Arena, Yukari has even become the actress of the Neo Featherman's Pink Argus, making children who watch her happy.
  • Alexius in Dragon Age: Inquisition is stuck in the "Bargaining" and "Denial" stages concerning his son Felix being doomed to die after he contracted the Darkspawn Taint. The dying person by contrast is in "Acceptance" and is trying to help Alexius reach it as well.

    Web Comics 
  • Neglected Mario Characters did this during the Super Smash Stadium crossover as Fred coped with his (mistaken) belief that he ate his best friend, Bill, with Donez rattling off the stages. He threw in "Flatulence" as stage four just to mess with Fred.
  • Parodied in this Terror Island strip: "The stages of grief don't work when you're trying to rush them." While in Bob the Angry Flower his doctor advises him, "Well, if I were you, I'd skip directly to the 'acceptance' stage."
  • Sluggy Freelance
    • Parodied in "Sluggy of the Living Freelance", with Torg going through similar phases during a zombie attack and as a result behaving wholly inappropriately for the circumstances. Also, it turns out he's actually grieving over beer running out, not the zombies as such.
    • Also parodied in "The Circle" when Sylvia realises the last remaining other vampire of her circle, whom she's gone through great trouble to resurrect, is not Queen Lysinda but the infuriating idiot Sam. Every stage before Acceptance, including sub-stages not mentioned on this page, consists of going "NOOOOOOO".
  • Attempted by Sam in Freefall but gets stuck on a repeating loop of anger and denial.
  • Referenced, if somewhat indirectly, by Kevyn Anderson, in Schlock Mercenary, when talking with Captain Tagon's father after the son was killed.
  • Parodied in one page of Zebra Girl. The comic then went and expanded on each stage after jumping the shark. One thing is certain though. The acceptance stage wasn't pretty to say the least.
  • Buttersafe shows us that the five stages can apply to anything.
  • Inverted in the Bug strip "The Five Stages of Joy".
  • Flintlocke's Guide to Azeroth presents: The Five Stages of Warcraft.
  • In Sinfest, Slick goes through four stages of damnation. He skips depression. Or perhaps it was subsumed under acceptance, given that it's damnation.
  • Critical Miss gives us the five stages of grief as they relate to Mass Effect 3's original ending.
  • Recursively parodied in Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, here:
    Denial: What? No, Nobody would seriously propose that grief comes in distinct stages.
    Anger: It's just something they made up, and they even say in the original book that it's arbitrary and incomplete!
    Bargaining: Okay, but if we say it's literature, and not science, then it's an interesting perspective.
    Depression: People are treating this model like it's a biological fact...
    Acceptance: Ech, it's not even in the top 100 worst psych theories of the sixties.
  • Blip has the stages of grief for a computer virus infection.
  • In The Order of the Stick, Roy experiences something like this when Belkar tells him Durkon has been killed and raised as a vampire. He assumes Belkar's making it up as a twisted joke, threatens to outright kill him, then tries to find logical holes in his story, then seriously considers abandoning their mission altogether due to the setback. After getting to "see" Belark again in an illusion of his ideal happy ending, he sort-of arrives at acceptance. Then "Durkon" joins the team, shifting him back into the denial stage as he ignores Belkar's warnings that this is NOT the same guy.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • The Emperor's New School had Kronk go through this as he came to terms with being left in the wild for a project. However, since it's a two-shorts show, he only goes through three stages (denial, depression and acceptance) and Malina identifies them after he goes through them.
  • Parodied in a Robot Chicken sketch: A giraffe is stuck in a quicksand pit and experiences the stages in order. When he finally gets to acceptance, he hits bottom...with his head and neck still above ground.
  • In The Simpsons episode where Homer eats bad fugu fish and is told he will likely die, he's told of the model by Dr. Hibbert and goes through all five stages in about 10 seconds.
    Hibbert: You can expect to go through five stages. The first is denial.
    Homer: No way, because I'm not dying!
    Hibbert: Second is anger.
    Homer: Why you little... Da-! Guuuuuh! Yaaaaah!
    Hibbert: After that, comes fear.
    Homer: (paranoid) What's after fear? What's after fear?!
    Hibbert: Bargaining.
    Homer: Doc, you've got to get me out of this. I'll make it worth your while.
    Hibbert: And finally, acceptance.
    Homer: Well, we've all got to go sometime.
    Hibbert: Mr. Simpson, your progress astounds me!
  • The High Fructose Adventures of Annoying Orange: In the My Name Is Earl parody "My Name is Orange", Orange gets mold and has 24 hours to live, in which Dr. Banana states he will go through the five stages of grief, providing a very illustrative montage to the audience.
  • The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy TV Movie "Big Boogie Adventure" Grim also goes through the stages in about 10 seconds...except he gets stuck on anger and never moves on to acceptance.
    • Though in that one, Mandy claims there are 7 Stages of Grief (and that the last is despair).
  • Parodied on The Ren & Stimpy Show. In the episode "Terminal Stimpy", Stimpy goes through the five stages after realizing he's on the last of his nine lives... except in "Bargaining", he literally bargains with Ren over antique furniture.
  • One episode of Recess, where Vince realizes his older brother Chad is a Geek, has one reference to this, right after Vince is told of the fact, by Gretchen stating "Stage one: denial." But the other stages can be seen as well: where Vince runs from the kitchen table after listening to Chad speak geek, where Vince confronts Chad and tries to reason why he can't be a geek, where Vince despairs over whether he will become a geek like Chad, and where Vince realizes that Chad has his badass moments too.
  • The Penguins of Madagascar parodies this in "Miss Understanding", with Skipper (who had been found to be female after taking a DNA testnote ) quickly going through all five stages as Kowalski lists them off.
  • In an episode of Rugrats, Chuckie's pet bug Melville dies. Chuckie exhibits denial, anger, and depression before whisking over to acceptance so fast it causes Mood Whiplash.
  • Discussed in the unproduced final episode of The Angry Beavers.
  • In Teen Titans Go!, Cyborg and Beast Boy go through this after Robin gets rid of their couch in "Lazy Sunday".
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • Rainbow Dash goes through the five stages in the episode "Tanks for the Memories" when she learns of her pet tortoise Tank's impending hibernation for the upcoming winter. Amusingly, her version of the "bargaining" stage involves trying to stop Tank from hibernating by stopping winter itself. As for depression, Fluttershy provokes her into crying when it's clear she's not going to do it on her own.
    • Starlight Glimmer hits all five stages in "The Cutie Remark Part 2" when Twilight shows her that her attempts to change the past by stopping the first Sonic Rainboom will cause Equestria to be destroyed - she refuses to believe the Mane Six's friendship is that important, bitterly compares their friendship to her failed friendship which sent her on the path she was on, attempted to destroy the time travel spell that started this mess to prove Twilight wrong, despairingly admits her fear of making friends before ultimately resigning herself to whatever her fate is.
  • Devin from Total Drama Presents: The Ridonculous Race undergoes this after his girlfriend, Shelly, broke up with him for her tennis instructor.
  • The classic National Film Board of Canada animated film Why Me is a serio-comic depiction of a man going through the five stages when he's told he only has a few minutes to live.
  • The infamous Tearjerker episode "Cookie Chomper III" from Alvin and the Chipmunks has all three chipmunks going through various stages after their newly adopted kitten is killed by a car. Theodore goes through denial, actively searching for their kitten and thinking that a different one was killed. Alvin goes through anger, putting all the houseplants outside because they'll eventually die too. Simon goes through depression, just sad over the kitten's death.
  • The five stages of grief are the secret hidden connection between the five short stories in the Adventure Time episode "Another Five Short Graybles".