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Five Stages of Grief

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"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 has since been applied to other forms of grieving, including grieving towards others, and loss in general, even in cases where the target of such grief may not actually be dead, but 'just' missing. Although the idea that grieving or dying people go through these stages is now known to be untrue, it still often appears in pop culture.

The stages are:

  1. Denial: This isn't happening; this is nothing. I'll just pretend I dreamed it up and it'll go away. / He's not dead, He's Just Hiding!
  2. Anger: This isn't right! I DON'T DESERVE THIS! / How Dare You Die on Me!
  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. / God, if you're up there, is there anything you could do to bring them back for me? I'll owe you one if you do.
  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. / Wherever he may be, I'm sure he's in a better place.

In pop culture, when the idea of these stages appears, all five stages of grief are displayed, always in this order, and if Played for Laughs all within ten seconds of each other. Also, these stages tend to apply to all grieving characters, although Kübler-Ross's work, again, was with those actually dying themselves 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: if you are a stable person it's simply better to get it out of the way to minimize personal suffering and learn to go with it, sure you can miss someone but you can make an effort to remember the good moments and be amused even if you can't make more such memories with them). 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 
  • 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 is Anger, Denial, and Depression.
    • Griffith is Depression and Bargaining.
    • Casca is Denial.
    • None of them have quite grappled with acceptance yet.
  • 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.
  • Chi's Sweet Home: Chi goes through these when Blackie moves away, all in the matter of two manga chapters/anime episodes.
  • 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.
  • In episodes 18 and 19 of Code Geass R2, Lelouch was going through this when Nunnally was presumably killed during the FLEIJA explosion.
    • Stage 1: his initial reaction to witnessing the event
    • Stage 2: his rage and lashing out at C.C. and Rolo at headquarters during his Achilles in His Tent moment
    • Stage 3: subverted - Charles and Marianne offering the return of Euphemia as a reason to side with them likely included Nunnally in Lelouch's mind, but he flat out refuses because the cost of that return is one he is unwilling to pay.
    • Stage 4: likely during the timeskip
    • Stage 5: likely at the tail end of the timeskip when he decides to usurp the Imperial Throne
  • Comical Psychosomatic Medicine lists only four stages in episode 14: denial, anger, giving up and acceptance (yes, those are combined into one stage), and hope. Never mind they're explaining this to Oda Nobunaga in Asuna's dream sequence.
  • 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.
  • Doraemon: Nobita's New Dinosaur: Nobita goes through the first three stages (Denial, Anger, and Bargaining) upon learning there's nothing he can do - or allowed to do - to save the dinosaurs on the Breeding Diorama Island from the incoming extinction event, including his new dinosaur pets, Kyu and Myu. Firstly by rejecting what the Time Patrol's rules for maintaining a Stable Time Loop, and then attacking his friends in frustration (even Doraemon!) before finally deciding to steal the Stop Watch to attempt cancelling the inevitable meteor landing on Earth. Before he can reach Depression, he is informed by Jill and Natalie of the Time Patrol that he can save the dinosaurs on the island after all.
  • 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 does, 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.
  • 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 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 (whom 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.
  • 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.
  • Hunter × Hunter: Gon plays with this after Kite's death. Right before this event, he immediately starts getting angry (stage 2), but then Killua makes Gon unconscious. When he wakes up he says that Kite is alive which is his Denial (Stage 1). When Gon sees his unstable body he still is in Denial. Then when he confronts Pitou, he then gets Anger at her/him for killing Kite. Gon Bargains (Stage 3) Pitou to bringing Kite back, but then Pitou says he can't bring his friend back. Then it gets complicated. Gon experiences the first four stages in a couple seconds, most notably Depression (Stage 4). Then he gets furious at Pitou, so much so that he sacrificed part of his life just to kill Pitou multiple times. He then gets put into a nen-state coma, which is most likely Stage 3 as he is at his weakest while waiting to come out of the coma. However, in a rare case of this trope, where he was at during that particular time does get him what he needs. After that, once Gon confronts Ging, he breaks down crying and lists everything he regretted doing since Kite died and then reincarnated, which is definitely Stage 4. After Ging says he should talk to Kite about his regrets, Gon finally goes through acceptance (Stage 5) as he is fine with Kite turning into a Chimera Ant.
  • In JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind, Narancia goes through this after seeing Abbacchio's body after he was killed by Diavolo. The rest of the team was unable to grieve as they had to continue their mission, so Narancia expresses it for them.
    • Denial: Narancia saying that he will wake up.
    • Anger: Narancia threatens to kill who is responsible and lashing out on Mista.
    • Bargaining: He attempts to get Girono to heal him.
    • Depression: He falls to the ground and cries.
    • Acceptance: After seeing the Dying Clue, he realizes that he must continue the mission.
  • Played for Laughs in K-On!, when Mio goes through these stages as she is forced to play Romeo for the school festival.
  • Naruto goes through the stages (with the exception of Bargaining) upon hearing about Jiraiya's death at the hands of Pain.
  • 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 after Ace's death.
    • Denial: He starts questioning where Ace is before lapsing into an Angst Coma, which is where he gets treated for his wounds.
    • Anger: After waking up from his Angst Coma, he begins a destructive rampage around Amazon Lily trying to shake off flashbacks, despite having serious wounds that could open up and kill him.
    • Bargaining: Doubting that Ace's death was a dream, he has a brief talk with Jimbei questioning if Ace is truly dead.
    • Depression: Once he's done doubting whether it was all a dream and finally realizes that Ace is dead, Luffy breaks down and nearly considers giving up his journey to become Pirate King.
    • Acceptance: After Jimbei tells him that they can never be brought back and that he still has his crew, Luffy comes to accept his fate and continue his journey.
  • Mallow in Pokémon the Series: Sun & Moon goes through this. She went through both Denial and Anger as a little girl when she realized her Delicate and Sickly mother was going downhill healthwise, not leaving enough time to be with her. She spent the next few years going through Depression, barely even thinking about Bargaining when given the chance to reunite with her spirit due to her Parting-Words Regret. After Mallow's mother forgives her and Shaymin (implied to be a reincarnation of her) comes into her life, she reaches Acceptance at the end of the series as she allows Shaymin to reach Sky Forme and reunite with its friends.
    • A smaller version happens earlier when Litten's surrogate guardian Stoutland dies. Litten spends the minutes after its death in Denial looking around for the missing Pokemon, and goes into Depression when it realizes the likely truth. When Ash stays by its side during the night, it reaches Acceptance as it knows that allowing Ash to catch it is what Stoutland would have wanted.
  • Simon from Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann goes through all of these (except bargaining) after Kamina's death.
  • 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.
  • 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!").

    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 
  • In All Fall Down, it's the central theme of the book.
  • Batman still hasn't reached the "Acceptance" stage, even decades after his parents' deaths. It's likely he never will.
  • 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."
  • In a Donald Duck-story where Scrooge loses all his money in a tornado, he starts going through this, with Huey, Dewey and Louie lamp-shading along: "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 to denial, stating that the money is not lost forever, and that he will find them again.
  • 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.
  • Spider-Man: A side-story during the 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".

    Comic Strips 
  • 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".
  • 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."
  • 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...

    Fan Works 
  • The stages are discussed in the Back to the Future fic 4am, This Letter, while Marty spends his first night in Doc Brown's 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.
  • Bethany Hawke is shown going through Depression and Anger after a specific plot point in Beyond Heroes: Of Sunshine and Red Lyrium. She skips Denial and Bargaining entirely, mostly because she was present for the event and knows that these aren't going to work. Throughout the remainder of the story (until a certain other specific plot point), Varric periodically catches her slipping back into Depression, though she manages not to stay there for very long, and Acceptance is largely in force by the time she confronts the Elder One.
  • An odd variation is introduced in Calvin & 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?
  • Colosseum of the Heart: Referenced in the narration (as "seven stages of grief") when Kairi feels like she's going through half of them at once since she lost Sora at the end of Kingdom Hearts III. "Shock and disbelief. Guilt. Anger. Depression. All were viciously, hideously mixed and intertwined with each other into a swirling vortex of hopelessness."
  • Diana in chapter 12 of League of Legends fanfic Daughters of the Sun and Moon goes through this after finding out that Leona had read her love letter addressed to her.
  • Subverted in Fireside Tale. Anna stops at the first stage: "Denial". She grieves, denies Elsa's death, grieves some more, and goes back into denial. Her denial is so persistent that she's soon deemed insane.
  • Five Stages shows Old Snake reacting to his aging.
  • In chapter 6 of the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic fanfic Guppy Love, Applejack goes through all five stages when Fluttershy and Rainbow confront her about her puppy love crush on the mermaid Rarity, forcing her to face the fact that she'll have to leave once her tail injury's healed.
  • Done in an interesting way for Laurel when she learns she has terminal cancer in To Heal A Hero. Diggle comments that while she has accepted that she's going to die, she's in denial that she's sick and will soon be too sick to be the Black Canary. Oliver (surprise surprise) briefly manages to push her into anger, she finally breaks down in grief when she's told she only has 4 months left, and spends the rest of the story fluctuating between hoping the team finds a cure (bargaining) and, as noted above, accepting she's dying but being in denial over how sick she is.
    • Her teammates and family also go through this, spending most of their time on grief and bargaining as they desperately look for anything to save her. None of them ever make it to acceptance.
  • Horseshoes and Hand Grenades: Yayoi talks about this in SplitxEnd, 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.
  • How the Light Gets In: After Laurel died, Dean spent the next several hours firmly locked in Denial, sitting by her bedside refusing to talk to anyone or leave her until he was forced to. Torturing her murderer to death checks off Anger, and another flashback shows him screaming How Dare You Die on Me! (and a few other choice insults) at a hallucination of her. He otherwise spent his months fluctuating between Depression and looking for a way to bring her back (Bargaining). She then was brought Back from the Dead by someone else, stopping this altogether.
    • The rest of her family meanwhile is firmly locked in Depression, except for Nyssa and Charlie who were still looking for a way to resurrect her.
  • 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 Bargaining stages directly mentioned at the end of Chapter 13.
  • Twisted Sister An Extended Ending After the loss of Bunny, the Powerpuff Girls go through this. Buttercup goes through anger; she is angry at herself for what she said to Bunny. Bubbles goes through denial and tells herself she can create a new Bunny, but the Professor tells her it won't be the same. Blossom has depression and bargaining; she feels the situation could have been avoided if she had spoken to the Professor about it in the first place and she questions if she's fit to be the leader anymore. They all go through acceptance once they realize that they did what they could, and they can properly have closure with their memorial of Bunny.
  • Universe Falls: After Lapis fuses with Jasper and traps Malachite at the bottom of Lake Gravity Falls at the end of arc 4, Dipper (who had grown close to the Gem) goes through the stages of grief during the first few chapters of arc 5:
    • In "Full Disclosure" he's in Denial, waiting in vain at the shore of the lake for Lapis to return.
    • In "Joy Ride" Dipper is in the Anger stage, lashing out at his friends, wanting to track down Peridot so he can get even, and generally being even more grumpy and sarcastic than normal.
    • In "Sock Opera, Part 1" Dipper slips into Bargaining, first by desperately trying to crack the password to the laptop in the hopes that it has more information on Gem fusion he can use to free Lapis from Malachite, then by making a desperate deal with Bill Cipher. At the end of "Sock Opera, Part 2", after his harrowing experience having his body stolen and abused by Bill, Dipper is overwhelmed by despair and falls into Depression, and the next chapter opens with Dipper tormented by guilt-ridden nightmares.
    • Dipper slips back into Bargaining in "Do It For Them", refusing to be healed by Steven and throwing himself into his sword-training despite still recovering from the gruesome injuries Bill inflicted on his body. After Dipper breaks down again and confesses how guilty he feels for everything that happened and how he never wants to feel so weak and powerless as he did, he finally moves on to Acceptance.
  • A chapter of Xanatos does this with Sayu, who goes through at least four of the five stages as she's being kidnapped.

    Films — Animated 
  • Cars: Lightning McQueen's Character Development from selfish and arrogant to kind and outgoing is shown by him going though the five stages throughout the movie. When he gets lost in Radiator Springs, he immediately wants to leave (denial), though he is sentenced to fix the road after causing damage the night before; he completely resents this and shows disdain for the residents at first (anger). He decides to face Doc Hudson, the town's judge, in a race at Willy's Butte to see if he can leave only to crash and lose (bargaining). He eventually learns of Doc's Dark and Troubled Past and how he lost his career for good, and realizes how he's acting after Doc gives him an Armor-Piercing Question about caring about someone or something other than himself. When he is found by the press, he breaks down for the first time and is reluctant to leave the townsfolk (depression). During the race, when Chick Hicks forcefully makes The King crash on the last lap, he willingly gives up the Piston Cup and helps him cross the line, and turns down the Dinoco sponsorship, finally realizing what's more important in life and how good it is to have friends that can help him (acceptance).
  • The Emoji Movie: Gene's mission to become normal is expressed through each of the five stages. First, he is upset over the fact he's a malfunction after destroying the text center (denial). He tells his parents he'll be normal and sets out to do so (anger), enlisting the help of Jailbreak to escort him to the Cloud where she can reprogram his code so he's a permanent Meh (bargaining). Eventually, she resists, telling Gene she likes him as he really is, causing him to undergo a Heroic BSoD and feel nothing but just "meh" without any reprogramming (depression). Finally, he regains his confidence and embraces his malfunction skills to help Alex text Addie his feelings, restoring Textopolis and being accepted by the emojis (acceptance).
  • Finding Nemo: As it is explained in the video by Super Carlin Brothers, Marlin goes through the five stages of grief when coming to terms with the death of most of his family and the abduction of his surviving son Nemo. First he acts as though he is fine, since he still has Nemo, and that they are happy when in reality he is sheltering Nemo too much (denial); then he gets angry at Nemo for disobeying him and putting him in a situation where a worst case scenario could happen (anger). After Nemo is captured by the diver, Marlin tells himself that he will find Nemo and goes out to find him, allowing himself to put up with Dory and the dangerous situations they get into together. When Marlin and Dory get stuck inside the mouth of a whale, Marlin gives up hope and sinks to the bottom, defeated (depression). When the whale is about to blow, Marlin doesn’t want to let go of the taste bud to which he's clinging, because he believes that the whale will eat him and Dory, but she convinces him to let go and that just because something bad could happen doesn’t mean it will; and Marlin lets go, symbolizing him finally letting go of his grief (acceptance). This stage is later shown again twice; when Marlin accepts that Nemo is (presumably) dead, and when Marlin lets Nemo save Dory and the other fish, once again accepting that he cannot continue to hold onto his grief and live in fear of losing Nemo.
  • In Flatland: The Film, A. Sphere's computerized chariot goes berserk when he's killed, and name-drops the five stages before ending with "NO ACCEPTANCE, REVENGE!"
  • 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 which are powered by them 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.
  • The Little Mermaid (1989): King Triton goes through this when it comes to Ariel leaving home and living her own life. He doesn't want Ariel going to the surface because of his prejudice towards humans, and he appoints Sebastian to be her guardian expecting that to be the end of it (denial). When he finds out that Ariel has fallen in love with a human, he becomes absolutely livid (anger) and tries to discourage her by destroying her secret grotto full of surface-world objects (bargaining). This makes Ariel lose whatever respect she has for him and run away, leaving Triton utterly remorseful of his behavior, to the point where he agrees to take her place as Ursula's prisoner (depression). Finally, once Prince Eric saves them both, he decides that Ariel deserves to be with him and turns her into a human permanently so they can be together, restoring his daughter's faith in him (acceptance).

    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's 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 (2005) 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."
  • After Loki in the Marvel Cinematic Universe learns about his true origin, he cycles through the stages:
    • Thor: He starts with Denial, clinging to the hope that he is not different, just cursed. When Odin confirms his worst fear, he reacts with Anger, shouting at his adoptive father in the vault. He then tries to Bargain, believing that if he'll be a "good Asgardian" (by wiping out their enemies, that is, his own race), he can be recognized as such. When Thor uncovers his scheme, he resorts to Anger again during their fight. Finally, when Odin disapproves of his actions, he literally plummets into Depression by diving into a wormhole.
    • The Avengers: During an argument with Thor on the mountain ledge, he recalls his past with Anger.
    • Thor: The Dark World: He is back at Denial when he brings up his "birthright" during his trail, of which he has none, and in a deleted scene when he fantasizes about being crowned king of Asgard while locked in the dungeons. Reminded of grim reality, he undeservedly takes his Anger out on Frigga.
    • Thor: Ragnarok: After four years of peace and quiet, he has nearly reached Acceptance. He rationalizes his backstory by writing a play and shares it with all of Asgard, jokes about being adopted and steps back as soon as Thor shows up without further claims to the throne.
    • Avengers: Infinity War: He has fully Accepted who he is:
      Loki: I, Loki, Prince of Asgard, Odinson, the rightful King of Jotunheim, God of Mischief, do hereby pledge to you my undying fidelity.
  • Avengers: Endgame: After Thanos erases half the population of the universe and the Infinity Stones, each member of the original Avengers sans Steve Rogers is going through one of the stages:
    • Denial: Natasha Romanov still believes she can go back to her former role of savior of the world and still hopes for a way to undo the Snap.
    • Anger: Clint Barton is going on a murder spree across the world to rid it of the people he thinks should have died in the Snap instead of his family, and admittedly has lost all hope.
    • Bargaining: Bruce Banner is trying his best to find other ways to stay happy, like mastering his Hulk form or gaining a large fanbase for his heroic deeds. Like pretty much every other former Avengers, he still jumps at the opportunity to undo the Snap.
    • Depression: Thor has stopped being a hero and spends his days drinking beer, playing video games, and eating way too much. As a result, he is very out of shape and emotionally vulnerable, as seen when he reunites with his mother and starts crying like a little boy.
    • Acceptance: Tony Stark has moved on from the Avengers after Thanos' Snap, and now has a daughter and lives happily with her and his wife. He is the only member of the team who (at first) refuses to take part in the plan of going back in time to take the Stones and undo the Snap, in part because he fears it will undo his daughter's existence.
    • Steve, however, acts as the grief counselor, trying to help the group get out of their funk, sending Natasha to Clint and so on. Nothing for nothing, the first thing we see him doing post-time skip is leading a literal Group Therapy Session.
  • Also near the end of Avengers: Endgame when Natasha dies to sacrifice herself for the Soul Stone the remaining Avengers goes through at least one of these stages again.
    • Denial: Thor still tries to believe that there can be a way to get her back.
    • Anger: Bruce Banner reacts like this being Hulk and lobbing a piece of furniture into the lake.
    • Bargaining: Clint Barton wishes that he could trade his life for hers because he tried to be the one to sacrifice himself initially but failed.
    • Depression: Steve Rogers just cries over the lost of his closest original Avenger friend that he been through the most with.
    • Acceptance: Tony Stark once again accepts the situation and ask if she had any family to contact because having a family now himself he would want them to know what happened to him if he died.
  • Spider-Man: Norman Osborne's reaction to the Oscorp board terminating him can be considered as him going through the five stages of grief in a matter of seconds :
  • Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith: Obi-Wan Kenobi goes through the five stages after Anakin Skywalker turns to the Dark Side of the Force:
    • Denial: Obi-Wan is so shocked when he sees holographic footage of Anakin participating in Order 66's attack against the Jedi Temple, then bowing before Emperor Palpatine/Darth Sidious, that he asks Yoda to turn it off.
    • Anger: When Anakin force-chokes Padme on Mustafar, Obi-Wan firmly and angrily implores Anakin to stop.
    • Bargaining: As he duels with Anakin, he still pleads with Anakin to see he's falling to the Dark Side.
    • Depression: After seriously injuring Anakin, Obi-Wan is devastated to see how his friend has fallen.
      Obi-Wan: You were the chosen one! It was said that you would destroy the Sith, not join them! Bring balance to the Force, not leave it in darkness! You were my brother, Anakin! I loved you!
    • Acceptance: The movie ends with Obi-Wan accepting that Anakin has turned to the Dark Side, and also accepting his new place watching over Anakin's son, Luke, on Tatooine.

  • 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 in Book Six, 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)
  • Despite predating the theory for more than a hundred years, Satan's arc in Paradise Lost is basically this:
    • Denial: He used to be God's favourite creation, but was supplanted by the Son. He could not believe it, that God would like someone more than himself.
    • Anger: Thus he waged a War in Heaven and got kicked out
    • Bargaining: He thinks that the next best way to get revenge on God is to screw over His most new favoured creation (Mankind) and bargains with Sin and Chaos for this.
    • Depression: Upon arrival on Eden he angsts painfully on how even though he had literally escaped Hell, the true Hell is the misery and rejection he constantly brings with him.
    • Acceptance: He embraces his evil, and thus proceeds into his plans to tempt and destroy humanity.
  • Pufftail in Stray goes through the stages after his mate Tammy is killed by a car. He goes into denial about her death and then runs off and gets into a fight right after her death. Later, he begs to the moon that he can see her again, before falling into a long period of depression and apathy. When he returned to her town on Christmas Eve, he finally felt acceptance after seeing his daughter Tabitha (who looks exactly like Tammy) living with her new humans.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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!
    • A Flashback sequence shows how Jack went through the five stages in couple seconds after he learned of the death of his mentor Don Geiss, except "Acceptance" was replaced with "Shoving Down Emotions and Proceeding as if Everything's Fine."
  • Arrow:
    • In the episode "Canary Cry" following his daughter Laurel's murder, Quentin Lance is initially in denial when he tries to insists she isn't really dead, jumps to bargaining when he talks to Nyssa about finding a way to bring her back to life, and reaches grief when he finally breaks down. Whether or not he ever makes it to acceptance is debatable. John Diggle by contrast spends most of the episode firmly locked in anger.
    • Sara Lance learns of her sister's death in the Season 1 finale of Legends of Tomorrow. She quickly enters denial, then anger when she lashes out at Rip (correctly) deducing that he knew this would happen but did not tell anyone. She breaks down crying later (Depression), and looks for a way to resurrect Laurel (Bargaining), despite being told her death is a "Fixed Point in time" and apparently "has" to happen. She doesn't reach Acceptance until the finale of Season 2, where she chooses not to resurrect her. In fact, from that point on no one ever even suggests doing so (despite multiple opportunities presenting themselves), suggesting they are all in a rather extreme form of Acceptance.
  • A variation in Batwoman (2019). When Kate Kane dies in a plane crash at the start of Season 2, different people are shown experiencing one particular emotion of this trope. Mary is in denial, refusing to believe that Kate is dead, Jacob and Sophie are bargaining (refusing to forsake the hunt for Kate), Alice is angry (albeit over not getting to kill Kate herself), and Luke is despairing, feeling responsible for Kate's fate.
  • 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 final episode of Blackadder Goes Forth, Edmund goes through several of these stages, including denial (trying to get out of the big push by pretending to be mad), bargaining (asking Field Marshall Haig to get him out by reminding him that he saved Haig's life in an earlier campaign), anger (if his reaction to Baldricks's poetry is anything to go by), and finally acceptance when he tells his men "good luck, everyone" and decides to Face Death with Dignity.
  • Bonanza: Little Joe repeatedly goes through this throughout the course of the series, but never is it showcased better than in the 14th-season opener "Forever." When newly wed Joe's wife, Alice, dies – Joe learns only later that she was brutally murdered by a gambler looking to collect her brother's debt –, the Five Stages kick in, with Depression the longest lasting one; for weeks, he is an aimless drifter, content that things will always be that way. Earlier, he was in Denial, going back to the burned-out shell of his house and breaking down in Broken Tears (along with his father, Ben) and denying that Alice was dead. Eventually, he learns the truth and captures Alice's killers and is able to go into the Acceptance phase. It was said that much of this was a way for Michael Landon (by now the head man of the show) and Lorne Greene to grieve the death of their co-star, Dan Blocker (who died just weeks before this episode was produced).
  • We see Hodgins go through this on Bones in a variant with his paralysis. He's in denial at first working on his therapy in the lab and pushing himself hoping it'll go away. Then he moves into anger and depression kind of at the same time as he argues with Angela and lashes out at everyone around him. Bargaining was more subtle but he talks to someone he thinks is a doctor who can help him walk again. He is very eager to get the procedure but Angela talks him out of it due to the risks. Acceptance comes when he finds out he's been talking to Zach all along and stops having leg spasms, losing all the feeling in his legs.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • The two-hour (or two-part, depending) 6th season premiere 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 Spike is screwing a Sex Bot that he 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.
    • Then there is Willow at the end of season six, swapping the list somewhat through the last Three episodes:
      • Denial: Willow desperately pleading to Tara to Wake up, moaning "no, no" all the time.
      • Anger: Willow shifts to Red Eyes, Take Warning, before summoning Osiris.
      • Bargaining: With Osiris himself. After that, she reverts to anger for the rest of the season, but that could easily be fueled by
      • Depression, because even Giles and the coven in England notes the sudden fury born of her sorrow - she reacts by turning stone cold. Depression (or rather despair, which also chimes in on Willow´s reaction here), is actually sided with wrath/anger in one of the upper circles of Hell inn The Divine Comedy.
      • Acceptance: When she finally breaks down in Xander`s arms.
    • 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
  • 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.
  • Criminal Minds: "Hanley Waters" has Hotch interviewing the team to see how they are coping with Prentiss' death. Morgan lists off Denial, Bargaining, and Depression, and explains why they don't apply, points out if he was at Acceptance he wouldn't be here, which leaves Anger. Garcia is in Denial, Reid is in Depression, and Rossi alone has reached Acceptance. Hotch is an interesting case, as he knows Prentiss isn't really dead.
  • In Dead Like Me, George narrates as she goes through the stages after her own death.
  • Dexter: In the episode "Hello, Bandit" after Rita's death:
    Dexter: It's said there are seven stages of grief. I suppose killing someone with my bare hands in a men's room was my way of working through the anger stage. Whatever the other six stages are... I don't have time for them.
  • 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 BSoD 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.
  • One of the later episodes of Eureka has Fargo take an experimental drug in order to get through the five stages of grief his girlfriend Holly's death at an accelerated rate in order to move on. The drug, however, not only accelerates the process but exaggerates each stage to a ridiculous degree, so much so that he's taken off of the treatment to processes his emotions normally.
  • Family Ties: "A, My Name Is Alex," where Alex works through his shock and denial that a close friend of his was killed in a tragic car accident. Throughout most of the episode, scenes depicting Alex in the first four stages play out, before Alex eventually comes to terms with his friend's death. Critically this was the Crowning Moment Of Awesome for Michael J. Fox, who played the young man who – while talking with an off-screen grief counselor – wishes he could have been with his friend or at least trade places with him when the accident happened. The episode itself won multiple awards.
  • 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. He eventually gets stuck at "Depression", forcing the rest of the cast to stage an intervention to get him to finally move on. The episode ends with Niles saying he thinks his divorce is going to go smoothly, followed by the title card "Denial".
  • The Fresh Princeof Bel Air: Will goes through all five stages in less than 2 minutes at the end of "Papa's Got a Brand New Excuse", after his dead beat father Lou bails on him for the second and seemingly final time. First, he excuses that it might have been better for the planned summer trip to be cancelled (Denial), before he slowly slides into anger, at first saying he shouldn't be mad because at least he said goodbye this time and then recalling all the milestones he accomplished without him before screaming "To Hell with Him". He then laments to Uncle Phil everything he's going to further accomplish without Lou, (Bargaining) before finally asking Phil "How come he don't want me, man?!" (Depression). He then receives a much-needed hug from Uncle Phil as he finally accepts that his father truly is a spineless deadbeat.
  • 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.)
  • 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.
  • Growing Pains: Carol goes through this in two episodes after her boyfriend, Sandy, dies from injuries in a drunk driving accident. Both are at the denial-anger stage:
    • "Second Chance", when Mike informs her that Sandy had died. Carol thinks this is a cruel, sick joke (as Mike had made some very cruel jokes about Sandy previously), but as Mike presses on, it is clear that what she said wasn't happening just did. She even cries out about Sandy appearing to be fine and that he would recover.
    • "Teach Me", where Carol is set up on a date (by her grandparents)... only for her to behave in a way that makes it clear that she is still deeply grieving Sandy. Jason and Maggie even remark that they thought Carol had gotten past the first stages but it was clear to them they were wrong.
  • The Hogan Family: Amplified in "Burned Out", particularly a scene where oldest teenaged son David (Jason Bateman) – as he and the family inspect their fire-damaged home – her sees a charred photo on what used to be his nightstand, recognizes it was one of his recently deceased mother, and realizes he's still at Stage 4 (Depression) as he breaks down in deep tears and is hugged by his aunt Sandy.
  • 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. He even comments on how its usually the patient going through these stages, not the doctor who's supposed to tell them their diagnosis.
    House: Remarkable. You just made a near-seamless transition from Anger to Bargaining.
    • Specifically, she spends most of the episode in Denial by refusing to accept that the patient is terminally ill (and refusing to do a biopsy, because as Wilson points out that would confirm beyond all doubt), reaches Anger when she yells at House over his refusal to help her with the case, Bargaining when she strikes a deal with him for help (prompting the above line), falls into Depression when she finally does do the biopsy and confirms that the patient really is terminally ill, and then reaches Acceptance and does her actual job by telling the patient the truth about her condition.
  • iCarly: Carly goes through the five stages in "iChristmas" when she is concerned about Spencer making a magnetic Christmas tree instead of getting a real one, which she initially will not accept. When the tree somehow catches fire and burns all her presents, she angrily wishes Spencer were normal. A Christmas angel named Mitch appears and grants her wish, and she sees what her life would be like if Spencer didn't drop out of law school and became a straight-faced lawyer instead of the goofy artist we know, as well as multiple key changes to her life (Sam is in jail, Freddie dates a mean girl while Nevel ends up as Carly's boyfriend, the webshow didn't exist, etc.). Having seen how horrible her life would be if this happened, she breaks down and wants her old life back. The wish is undone, the present goes back to the way it was, and she happily accepts Spencer for who he truly is.
  • In Kamen Rider Gaim, Micchy goes through this over the course of the series:
    • Denial: He learns the truth about what's happening, particularly Yuya's fate and Yggdrasil's plans, and tries to hide it from everyone else, believing that everyone will be happier if they don't know the truth.
    • Anger: Once Kouta starts derailing his plans, he starts to blame him for everyone's unhappiness (despite being responsible for it himself) and starts plotting to kill him.
    • Bargaining: Once his plans start falling apart even more, he starts bargaining with villains such as Redyue and Ryoma, who really shouldn't be trusted, culminating in leaving Mai in Ryoma's care, and using the deadly Yomotsuheguri Lockseed against Kouta.
    • Depression: After Kouta sacrifices himself to save him from the Yomotsuheguri, and Ryoma predictably backstabs Micchy and kills Mai's physical body for the Forbidden Fruit, he realizes that all his attempts to keep what he had were for naught and enters a depressive breakdown for the rest of the series.
    • Acceptance: During epilogue episode, he finally snaps out of his depressive funk in order to fight against a lingering threat, making peace with Kouta and resolving to properly atone for his actions.
  • On Law & Order, after Mike Logan's partner is murdered, his grief counsellor Olivet tells him that he's going through the stages (she mentions it as "seven stages of grief", presumably a variation on the model). Worth noting that this one doesn't show a perfect progression: he starts with Denial (in this case, not denying that it happened, but rather that he's affected by it, as he tries to insist he's already come to terms with the loss), then Anger, then he goes Out of Focus for the second half of the episode, until the last scene, where he's shown reaching Acceptance. It's not clear exactly what he went through emotionally in the time he was off-camera, but it's reasonable to think that it might have been a more imperfect, realistic iteration.
  • The Law & Order: Special Victims Unit episode "Collateral Damage" gives a villainous example. When a city official is caught trading child pornography he initially assumes that the cops would back down because of his position (denial). In the interrogation room he starts accusing everyone of being part of a conspiracy to bring him down (anger). Then he tries to avoid prison by making a deal with the prosecutor (bargaining) but he has nothing to offer. He attempts suicide (depression). Then finally pleads guilty and takes his prison sentence (acceptance).
  • The Librarians 2014: In "And The Eternal Question", Cassandra goes through this as she deals with her brain tumor hitting the terminal stages.
  • 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 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)
    Fran: Sometimes they even have fits of anger.
    (She smashes a pot)
    Fran: And, finally, if they're despondent enough, they might even be driven to acts of violence.
    (She stomps on Niles' foot, which had been causing him agony from corns)
    Fran: And that concludes today's audio/visual demonstration.
  • On NCIS: Los Angeles, Sam Hanna's car Charlene is stolen. Callen keeps track of the five stages as they come.
  • 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).
  • On the New Girl episode "Goldmine", Schmidt goes through the five stages after learning that Cece is thinking of having breast reduction surgery.
  • Summer in The O.C. at the beginning of the fourth season.
  • Leslie Knope on Parks and Recreation went through her own version of the five stages of grief after getting kicked off of the city council.
    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:
    • Played 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.
    • After Ozzie's death in the middle of Season 2, Gina spends most of the next episode in denial, before, as seems to be typical for her, erupting into a rage of combined anger, bargaining, and depression when Ozzie's fish Abraham, which she's been carrying around with her the whole time, dies in her arms (Well, in his bowl, which is in her arms at the time). By the end of the episode, she's moved on enough that she's planning to go back to being a professional therapist.
  • 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.
  • The 5th-season Scrubs episode "My Five Stages" has J.D. and Dr. Cox going through the stages over the death of Mrs. Wilk.
  • Sesame Street: What Big Bird goes through in the groundbreaking "Goodbye, Mr. Hooper" segment. First there's innocent denial, thinking Mr. Hooper will be back later; then bargaining, as he asks who will do all the things Mr. Hooper used to do for him; then depression ("It makes me sad"); then anger ("Why does it have to be this way?! Give me one good reason!"); then finally wistful acceptance. In a matter of minutes, Big Bird's emotions run the gamut... and it's 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.
  • 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.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation:
    • "The Loss" is a rare case of it happening without attention being drawn to it in the episode. 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).
    • In "Sarek", Ambassador Sarek and his party go through the progression more-or-less in order.
      • Denial: For the first half of the episode, nobody will admit that Sarek has Bendii syndrome, the Vulcan equivalent of Alzheimer's disease, and is beginning to lose his mind. Ki Mendrosan in particular lies his butt off to Picard.
      • Anger: Despite the denials, Sarek is unusually testy, but most of the anger comes out in the form of violence throughout the Enterprise. His confrontation with Picard is basically angry denial.
      • Bargaining: Once the truth comes out, Perrin pleads with Picard to undertake the mind-meld and allow Sarek to complete his final mission.
      • Depression: While channeling Sarek's emotions, Picard expresses both anger and regret over Sarek not telling his loved ones how he feels about them.
      • Acceptance: Sarek returns to Vulcan accepting his fate.
  • Star Trek: Voyager: In "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.
  • 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!"
  • Supernatural: Played With in :In My Time Of Dying", which is even lampshaded by the reaper, who says "Stage three: Bargaining."
  • 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 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.
  • The Twilight Zone (1985): In the third episode of season one ("Children's zoo"), a little girl abandons her neglectful parents in said zoo. They have trouble realizing this (denial). The little girl then sees a couple who angrily order her to let them out (anger), a sleeping couple (depression), and two people who try to buy her decision by promising to spoil her (bargaining). The kid then stops in front of a last couple. They humbly admit that their son was right when he abandons them there. But they learned from their mistakes and know that now, they can be good parents (acceptance). The little girl is convinced by said couple, who apparently became wiser after they went by the five stages. She let them out and chooses them as her new parents.
  • In the WandaVision flashback episode, "Previously On," each of Wanda's flashbacks correspond with one of the stages.
    • Denial: Following the first flashback, the adult Wanda refuses to believe her burgeoning magical powers prevented the supposedly dud Stark missile from going off.
    • Anger: The second flashback in Agatha's words: “Your reaction to the bombing of your civilian apartment building and the murder of your parents was to join an anti-freedom terrorist organization?”
    • Depression: The third flashback shows Wanda's ongoing sadness following Pietro's death and how Vision first connected with her by comforting her in her grief.
    • Bargaining: The final flashback shows Wanda going to S.W.O.R.D. headquarters asking for Vision’s body, so that she can bury him and hopefully find closure. Though Director Hayward refuses her request, she could’ve taken the body if she believed it would've made her feel better, but she realizes it wouldn't.
    • Acceptance: None of the flashbacks show this, but the process of revisiting her history of losses and realizing how she created Hex Westview ultimately brings her to this place.
    • Arguably the entire show could be seen as this, at the beginning, Wanda is firmly on the side of denial, nothing is wrong, wacky sitcom shenanigans, etc.. As S.W.O.R.D. and "Agnes" and Monica begin to poke holes in her happy fantasy, she goes into Anger, eventually settling on outright threatening them just outside the Hex to leave her alone (Bargaining). Towards the end, just before the real enemy reveals themselves, she's definitely settled into Depression, barely able to keep her fantasy world together (causing visible glitches), when in the finale, she finally finds acceptance to let go of her fake family and her dependency on the illusion so she can free Westview.
  • 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. (crying0 Oh, what's the use! It's hopeless! He's gone! (recovering) But what are you gonna do? Life goes on.

  • Buck Owens: A real-life example, after the 1974 death of his closest friend, Don Rich, in a motorcycle accident. Rich's death had a profound effect on Buck's music, career and personal life for many years, as he was stuck in Denial, Anger and Depression for many years; it was said that even his work on Hee Haw suffered. Only when Buck met up with Dwight Yoakam, whom idolized him in his youth, did he begin to accept that Rich had passed on but also that his legacy was worth carrying on.
  • Iron Maiden's song "Hallowed Be Thy Name" is sung from the perspective of a condemned man being executed.
    Denial: "Is it really the end, not some crazy dream?"
    Anger: "If there is a God, why does he let me go?"
    Bargaining: "Can it be this is some sort of error?"
    Depression: "Tears fall, but why am I crying?"
    Acceptance: "Catch my soul, it's willing to fly away!" "Life is just illusion."
  • Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody", narrated from the perspective of a killer awaiting execution. The intro starts off "Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?"; the narrator is going through Denial. The part where the narrator talks about "Any way the wind blows, doesn't really matter" is the narrator going through Despair. The opera part, especially the "Will you let me go?", is the narrator Bargaining. The hard rock section is, of course, Anger. In the final, gentle-sounding stage, the narrator shifts back into Despair before finally settling on Acceptance.

    Puppet Shows 
  • In the Fraggle Rock episode "Gone But Not Forgotten," Wembley goes through four of the stages of grief after his new friend Mudwell the Mudbunny dies. First and foremost he's inconsolably depressed, but he also shows denial, as he admits that he can't believe Mudwell is really gone and almost expects him to reappear at any moment, and anger in response to the World's Oldest Fraggle's jokes about death. It's an especially realistic example, in that the stages are jumbled together and don't occur in the traditional order. In the end, though, he reaches acceptance after he befriends the newborn lizard-like creature that's apparently either Mudwell's offspring or his reincarnation.

  • 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.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Changeling: The Lost: The four Seasonal Courts of Changelings — people who were captured and Metamorphosed by The Fair Folk — have philosophies that map to these. The Spring Court try to drown out their memories with hedonism; the Summer Court are militaristic and literally fueled by rage; the Autumn Court obsess over gaining power through magic and Fae bargains; and the Winter Court spread grief and sorrow in the world. Notably absent is "Acceptance", unless one counts the threat of losing one's soul and transforming into a new True Fae.
  • Princess: The Hopeful has these map to the philosophies of the Twilight and Radiant Courts. Mirrors is infamous for its refusal to accept hard choices and no-win scenarios and its Queen constantly ignores the failures of her past Princesses in telling each that they are the True Heir and prophesied to bring back the Kingdoms. Storms exists in a state of perpetual fury against the Darkness, caring only about burning it out of existence no matter the cost. Tears exists on the border between Bargaining and Depression: its Queen is rumored to have made a bargain with the Darkness to keep her city shielded at the cost of a constant stream of stolen Wisps, and one of her key traits is that she has lost hope of any better solution than the one she used. And the five Radiant Courts can be said to collectively represent Acceptance: they acknowledge their failures and losses and are resolved to do better, to rebuild what was lost and restore Light to the world.

  • Gluck's opera Orfeo ed Euridice is essentially a study of the five stages of grief composed centuries before Kübler-Ross. At the beginning, Orpheus is in denial, continuously calling for the dead Eurydice and begging her to come back to him. Then he switches to anger at the gods, resolving to defy them by journeying to the underworld and bringing Eurydice back. His whole journey through the underworld embodies bargaining, as he literally bargains with the gods, furies and spirits, and as he struggles to keep his end of the bargain by not looking back at Eurydice. When he does look back and loses her again, he succumbs to depression. He never quite reaches acceptance, because the opera changes the ending of the myth and has the gods restore Eurydice to him anyway... though some creative modern productions have had her stay dead and turned the "happy" ending into a symbol of acceptance, with Orpheus realizing his wife will always live on in his memory.
  • In the final scene of West Side Story, Maria goes through all five stages very quickly. As Tony lies dying in her arms, she tries to assure him that everything will be alright and sings a reprise of "Somewhere" (denial). After he dies, she turns in rage on the two gangs (anger) and threatens to kill them all and then herself, as if their deaths would compensate for Tony's and resolve the tragedy of their hate (bargaining). But she can't bring herself to do it and collapses in tears (depression). But in the end, as the gangs make their peace and join together to carry Tony's body in a procession, she follows them in bittersweet pride and triumph that she created this glimmer of hope (acceptance).

    Video Games 
  • Quite an easy example to miss, but in the Alpha Protocol mission where you assault Konstantin Brayko, 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 him right at the very end he'll go out with a joke.
  • In Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn, Jaheira goes through a mini-version in the scene where she finds out that her husband has been killed. First she's in denial and insists it's an illusion; then she's angry at everyone who tries to comfort her; and then she trails off in sadness.
  • BlazBlue: Even as a doctor, Litchi Faye-Ling goes through all five phases throughout the whole series as a result of losing her boyfriend Lotte Carmine who now becomes the Blob Monster Arakune, an effect of There Are No Therapists in that world.
    • Denial: Beginning in BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger, Litchi was at first introduced as already settling in Orient Town as a local doctor, beloved by all and thought that if she just kills Arakune, everything will be over. In the last minute, she realized that this isn't the way and she has to commit on rescuing him.
    • Bargaining: In the middle to the end of BlazBlue: Continuum Shift, Litchi found out that she contracted a similar corruption like Arakune and her time draws near that she would succumb to the same corruption. However, an unsavory chance was presented to her by someone she's very suspicious at: Hazama of NOL. If she joins his division in NOL, she can get more information to save Arakune and herself. Even if she didn't like it in general, rather than burdening her other friends with her grief, she decided to take the chance and go rogue, joining the obvious bad guys.
    • Anger: Hazama proves to be really nasty and Litchi's time to work in NOL was not enjoyable, but she still bore through them all throughout BlazBlue: Chronophantasma. However, when the good guys turn out to be largely unsympathetic at her, calling her stupid or even warranting arrest on her, Litchi at times tends to snap at her former friends. But she continued on the side of evil, which pits her against the other friends that didn't blame her, from her tone, she looks like she's angry at herself...
    • Depression: In BlazBlue: Central Fiction, though time tends to get reset, making Litchi go back to square one, she tends to carry her old memories, but she was confronted with Awful Truth from one to one, starting with how she was not an Entitled and even if she won through the battles, her wish to save Arakune would never be granted into meeting a lucid Lotte and getting told off that he actually never wanted to be saved, she was just wasting her time. At this point, with nothing else that she had, only the last request of Lotte to kill the body of Arakune, Litchi attempts to slay her target while tears constantly ran through her face, knowing that she will carry the burden of killing a loved one, but she no longer cared.
    • Acceptance: Thankfully, Bang knocked her out and realizing her love to Lotte, he decided to take her place in delivering the killing blow to Arakune so she wouldn't be burdened with the grief. With that, in the epilogue, Litchi managed to accept that she has tried everything to her power to save Arakune, and that's all that matters. She then managed to make amends with the Sector Seven and then returned to her clinic permanently, also adopting Platinum the Trinity.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • In the Fallout: New Vegas expansion Dead Money, you can hear Father Elijah go through one over the radio should you trap him inside the Sierra Madre's vault, triggering a Villainous Breakdown that starts with him ranting that he's still in control ("This entire structure is mine to command! Security, weapons, all this technology, mine!"), then screaming in increasing fury about how he'll destroy you ("That cold hand on your throat is mine, it always was!"), then trying to entice you to free him ("I have other weapons, other technology I can share with you"), then a period of despair ("No way out. Can't... can't end like this..."), and finally his cold, calm Dying Curse ("When you die... I'll be waiting here... at the Sierra Madre... Waiting.")
  • 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.
  • GRIS revolves around this trope. The game takes place in the landscape of the protagonist's psyche, rendered bleak and desolate by a serious trauma (all but stated to be the loss of her mother). Each of the game's five levels represents one of the Stages, and completing them progressively restores life and color to the world.
  • This is the central theme of In Between. The main character is a terminal cancer patient, and the game takes place in a Mental World wherein he confronts these stages.
    • Denial: He relives his childhood fear of the dark as a distraction technique, embodied as a destructive black wall, but this eventually becomes a fear of the metaphorical darkness of his predicament.
    • Anger: He relives his anger after a violent breakdown at his workplace, with the fiery, explosive anger haunting his steps.
    • Bargaining: He loses himself in thoughts of others, wishing that he had more time to keep his family happy and watch his children grow up.
    • Depression: He needs to stay within light in order to escape the crushing darkness of his sorrow at his predicament.
    • Acceptance: He finds himself caught in a loop of levels, and the only way to escape it is walk into the wall of spikes in one of the rooms, thereby accepting his death.
  • King Graham in Kings Quest (2015) goes through this throughout the game's installments. Denying there's anything wrong, being angry at his own bedridden state, desperately begging his Magic Mirror to show him another adventure, sadness at realizing his adventuring days (and life) are coming to a close... it's only during the final episode, after one last ill-fated attempt to go out adventuring fails miserably, that he comes to accept his end.
  • In The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky - Second Chapter, Estelle goes through all stages during the prologue after Joshua's disappearance.
    • Denial: She tries to think what she experienced the night before was only a dream.
    • Anger: After her father revealed he knew of Joshua's past and that he might leave one day, Estelle angrily yells at him and runs off.
    • Bargaining: She immediately convinces herself that Joshua simply went back to their family home despite the clear fact this isn't true.
    • Depression: Falls to her knees and cries after seeing Joshua is nowhere in their house.
    • Acceptance: She accepts Joshua's absence, but realizes there's still hope in finding and bringing him back.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask seems to represent the stages through the various regions of the land of Termina, as detailed in this video by Game Theory:
    • Clock Town represents Denial. The moon is about to fall and kill everyone, but the citizens couldn't care less. The head carpenter in particular laughs at the idea of the moon actually falling, and tells the mayor that the carnival should go on as planned.
    • Woodfall has Anger. The Deku princess has disappeared, and her father finds a scapegoat he can kill to calm his frustration, lashing out in anger rather than doing anything productive.
    • Snowhead has Bargaining. Darmani, the leader of the Goron, has died, and his people are going to die as well if the eternal winter doesn't end. He asks Link to prolong his life a little bit more with his magic, just enough to allow him to save his tribe.
    • Great Bay represents Depression. Lulu's children have been stolen by pirates, and all she does to deal with it is stand by the sea in silence, unable to move forwards.
    • Acceptance is found in Ikana. The undead wander around, and Link helps some of them come to terms with their condition. In the end, he climbs upwards to the heaven and achieves enlightenment in the form of the light arrows.
  • Lost Words: Beyond the Page presents a fantasy adventure interspersed with the story's author dealing with her grandmother's worsening medical condition. Once the author's situation unfolds, the adventure's progression begins to go through the stages. Denial is represented by a desert with a djinn trying to push the protagonist away, Anger by a lava cave with a rampaging fire elemental, Bargaining by a forest with a literal trade sequence of sacrifices, and Depression by sinking into the depths of a watery chasm. The Acceptance tower comes eventually, but only after the added quirk that Depression can make it very difficult to motivate oneself to finish the story.
  • 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".
  • 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.
  • Mother 3: After Flint is told that his wife Hinawa was killed by a Drago, he immediately enters Anger, when he attacks some of the villagers around him and has to be to Tapped on the Head by Lighter. After he gets over it, he then enters Bargaining for the rest of the game, after his son Claus goes missing trying to avenge Hinawa's death, and he subsequently leaves Lucas alone for years, desperate to not lose his oldest son too.
  • 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.
  • In Randal's Monday, Sally starts to go through them as Matt dies over and over again in a "Groundhog Day" Loop, each day in a different way. On the first day, Sally can't accept the fact that Matt is dead. On the second day, she gets mad at Randal because she thinks he's responsible for Matt's suicide. On the third day, Sally ponders ways in which she could bring Matt back to life. Unusually for this trope, however, this trend stops suddenly and no more stages are shown in play for the rest of the game.
  • RiME: The entire game is built upon this concept, as the game areas are explicitly named after the five stages and thematically linked to them. This makes perfect sense, as the ending shows that the story is a tale the father spins in his head as a way of coping with his son's death.
  • 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.
  • In Sonic the Hedgehog (2006), the song "End of the World" that plays at the final dungeon corresponds to the mental state of each character, especially those who were closest to Sonic.
    • Denial - Tails' version is extremely bleak and empty, lacking anything in the background other than a harsh low buzzing sound. Sonic dying has left Tails hopeless, frightened and completely lost.
    • Anger - Silver's version feels dead inside. Solaris has just taken Silver's victory over Iblis and killed his new friend, who helped Silver do it and who Solaris nearly succeeded in tricking Silver into murdering, as well as rendering Blaze's sacrifice for nothing, leaving Silver pretty furious and perhaps tethering on a Despair Event Horizon.
    • Bargaining - Knuckles' version has the least amount of revisions but has an eerie funeral organ playing alongside the many, many drums. Knuckles has more at stake than anyone else, as the Chaos Emerald he's been charged with protecting will be permanently lost to time but also one of the people Knuckles valued the most was murdered. He is angry, sad and confused but he will do whatever it takes to stop this or die trying.
    • Depression - Amy's version is especially downbeat and strained, with a heartbroken female singing in the background. Seeing her long-time crush dead and knowing she wasn't able to protect him has not helped her mental state.
    • Acceptance (with some undertones of Anger) - Shadow's version is a chaotic mix-match of choir-backed beats. Shadow has spent majority of the game trying to stop Mephiles' machinations and surviving through his identity issues but now someone who Shadow deeply respects is dead and time itself is collapsing. Shadow is running on desperation and anger as this is not the first time Shadow has failed to protect someone he cares about and he won't fail again.
  • We see these stages in the climax of Spec Ops: The Line, when Captain Walker is confronted by Colonel Konrad (or more specifically, hallucinates a conversation with Konrad after discovering that the Colonel has been Dead All Along). After delivering some Awful Truths amid a brutal "The Reason You Suck" Speech, Konrad aims a gun at Walker and prepares to shoot.
    Konrad: I'm going to count to five, then I'm pulling the trigger.
    Walker: (fearful) You're not real. This is all in my head.
    Konrad: Are you sure? Maybe it's in mine! One.
    Walker: (angry) No. Everything, all this, it was your fault!
    Konrad: If that's what you believe then shoot me! Two.
    Walker: (tearfully) I... I didn't mean to hurt anybody...
    Konrad: No-one ever does, Walker. Three...
    • Depending on the player's choices, Walker can resign himself to Konrad's judgment and die, or shoot first, surviving the ordeal as an utterly broken man. Which ending is "Depression" and which is "Acceptance" is probably open to argument. Or you can have Walker wipe out the friendly soldiers sent to extract him, adding a "Kill Everything" option to the Stages of Grief.
  • 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)

    Web Comics 
  • Blip has the stages of grief for a computer virus infection.
  • Buttersafe shows us that the five stages can apply to anything.
  • Inverted in the Bug Martini strip "The Five Stages of Joy".
  • Critical Miss gives us the five stages of grief as they relate to Mass Effect 3's original ending.
  • Flintlocke's Guide to Azeroth presents: The Five Stages of Warcraft.
  • Attempted by Sam in Freefall but gets stuck on a repeating loop of anger and denial.
  • 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.
  • NFL Quarterbacks On Facebook had this in the "Divisional Roundup" convo.
    Drew Brees: When a QB loses in the playoffs, they experience five distinct emotions. #1: denial
    Peyton Manning: I did NOT just lose at home to Baltimore. I REFUSE TO ACCEPT IT!
    Drew Brees: #2: anger
    Drew Brees: #3: bargaining
    Drew Brees: #4: depression
    Matt Schaub: I WANT TO DIE
    Drew Brees: #5: acceptance
    Tony Romo: Buck up, fellas. I've been ending all my seasons in disgrace and humiliation for years now. You get used to it.
  • 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" Durkon 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.
  • Ozy and Millie:
    • Parodied in this strip when Millie goes through the stages of having-to-go-back-to-school grief while waiting for the bus.
    • This strip has Millie go through the five stages after losing a class spelling bee.
  • 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.
  • Referenced, if somewhat indirectly, by Kevyn Anderson, in Schlock Mercenary, when talking with Captain Tagon's father after the son was killed.
  • In Sinfest, Slick goes through four stages of damnation. He skips depression. Or perhaps it was subsumed under acceptance, given that it's damnation.
  • Sluggy Freelance:
    • Parodied in "Sluggy of the Living Freelance", with Torg going through similar phasesnote  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".
  • 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."
  • 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.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Adventure Time: The five stages of grief are the secret hidden connection between the five short stories in "Another Five Short Graybles", though the order goes Acceptance (Finn mimics accepting a package from Jake), Denial (Princess Bubblegum denies Cinnamon Bun the use of his night-light), Bargaining (Ice King bargains with his penguins to get his pick on movie night), Anger (the Lemongrabs fight over a doll and get angry with each other), and Depression (Mr. Fox returns home after a long trip, and sees a vision from his subconscious in a depression in the mattress of his old bed).
  • The 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 Cookie and thinking that another kitten which looked like him was killed. Alvin goes through anger, putting all the houseplants outside because they'll eventually die too. Simon goes through depression, just sad over Cookie's death. Eventually, with Dave's help, all three of them reach acceptance and the episode ends with them adopting a new pet, a dog named Lily, from the animal shelter.
  • The Amazing World of Gumball did this with Richard's issues concerning his deadbeat biological father Frankie's abandonment.
    • He spent 42/33 years in denial about it as revealed in "The Man". In the same episode, his mother, Granny Jojo, is revealed to be dating again, prompting him to take most of his anger out on her new spouse, Louie.
    • Despite accepting Louie as a surrogate father, he refuses to let him marry his mother, setting up the bargaining stage in "The Signature", where Frankie returns to settle the issue but ends up stealing his son's home. After having a Heel Realization over leaving his precious child, he changes his mind and gives back the house. In return, Richard welcomes him back into his life, still in the bargaining stage, but ends up unintentionally making their rekindled relationship worse throughout "The Outside".
    • Finally, in "The Father", Frankie has an attack of guilt from The Vermin Man ceremony and excludes himself from the Wattersons out of remorse, causing Richard to go into depression from losing his father again. His kids try to cheer him up by having him and Frankie bond to make up for lost time, which only makes Richard lose his patience with his father's old habits and give up on him.
    • However, Frankie makes it clear that he still loves his son no matter what and didn't want him to make the same mistakes he did, prompting Richard to finally accept that Frankie's abandonment made him a better parent and truly reconciles with him.
  • American Dad!: In "Spelling Bee My Baby", Stan and Roger try to get Hayley to go through the five stages as they want her to umpire their badminton game but she's stuck in Denial over her husband Jeff's Alien Abduction. Roger pushes her into Anger by giving her a front Wedgie (getting his ass kicked as a result), they don't know what Bargaining means so they skip it and force her into Depression by playing a slide show of photos of Jeff. When Hayley later gets shot in the neck with a dart by a ninja, she has an epiphany while unconscious and reaches Acceptance. And then she steals Stan and Roger's shuttlecock because it was their fault that Jeff was abducted in the first place. This causes Roger to go through the five stages in rapid succession, although he then points out that his species has a sixth stage of grief, and then kicks Stan in the balls, but when asked by Stan if that was the sixth stage, simply says "Nope!"
  • Discussed in the unproduced final episode "Bye Bye Beavers" of The Angry Beavers, in which Daggett struggles to accept Norbert's assertion that the show was being cancelled.
  • Big City Greens:
    • Cricket goes through the five stages in "Green Christmas", which contrasts with how he sees Christmas as just wanting presents from Santa, and forgetting what it truly is about. He repeatedly denies Tilly's explanation of the True Meaning of Christmas and believing there's a lot of good in him, gets angry and upset when he assumes he's on the naughty list when Santa thinks he's naughty and decides just that, attempted to steal the Big City Christmas star and wound up putting the blame on Tilly instead, started to have mixed feelings before breaking down and realizing it was indeed his fault for ruining the holiday and blaming someone else for him being bad, and finally accepts what he went through when he refuses Santa's magical gift and instead wishes for Tilly to be back on the nice list; as a reward for putting Tilly's needs before his, Cricket is back on the nice list as well.
    • Tilly explains the five stages throughout the flashback sequences in "Dirt Jar", showing how she and Cricket didn't like the thought of moving to the country, plotted revenge, tried to stop Bill from convincing them, broke down upon learning why they were moving, and both eventually came to accept the move, though it took Cricket some time to realize the country will always be with him before he accepted it. Amusingly, at the "bargaining" stage, Tilly tried to bribe Bill with various bargaining coupons she made herself.
    • Cricket goes through the five stages again in "Junk Mountain" when he realizes his childhood friend Hector has become a teenager who cast away almost all his childhood. He refuses to accept Bill's words that he's gotten older, screams against Remy saying he's too old, and willingly chooses to abduct Hector from the teen party he has been invited to, briefly keeping him all to himself. He soon realizes Hector misses his teen friends and feels bad for taking him away, thus he finally accepts the fact that Hector has grown up, lets him return to the party, and hands Hector's original position down to his little sister Lupita.
  • 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.
  • Played for Laughs in The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy TV movie Billy & Mandy’s Big Boogey Adventure. Mandy claims there are seven stages of grief: shock, denial, bargaining, fear, anger, despair, and presumably acceptance. Grim goes through the stages in about 10 seconds... except he gets stuck on anger and never moves on to despair.
    Billy: Is Grim gonna be okay?
    Mandy: He'll be fine. He's going through the Seven Stages of Grief. Shock
    Grim: How could this happen?!
    Mandy: Denial...
    Grim: It's a mistake. No way this could happen.
    Mandy: Bargaining...
    Grim: It's okay... it’s okay... maybe I can fix it.
    Mandy: Fear...
    Grim: There's no way I can fix it!
    Mandy: Anger...
    Grim: I’m gonna pull Boogey’s nose off, and put it in a jar!
    Mandy: Despair...
    Grim: (still fuming) And when I'm done with Boogey, I'm coming for you little pukes!
    Mandy:'''He's stuck on "Anger".
  • 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.
  • King of the Hill: In "Pretty, Pretty Dresses", Bill becomes depressed during the holidays because it's when his wife Lenore left him, and he goes through these stages, albeit out of order:
    • Depression: He starts out depressed about not having Lenore in his life.
    • Denial: He denies that she's gone forever.
    • Bargaining: He gets an iguana he calls Lenore and later starts believing he is Lenore herself.
    • Anger: Hank, pretending he's Lenore, shames Bill in order to make him stand up for himself.
    • Acceptance: After he tells off "Lenore", Bill accepts that she's gone.
  • Littlest Pet Shop (2012) parodies this with Youngmee's "Seven Stages of Coping with Parental Dating" in "Mean Isn't Your Color", when Blythe thinks her dad chose a date to the Charity Ball without her knowing. The steps, in the order as Youngmee describes, are Distress and denial (Denial); "I didn't mean to!"; Fury and promises (Anger and Bargaining); "So lonely I could cry!" (Depression); Making adjustments; Coming to grips; and finally, Totally okay with it (Acceptance).
  • 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.
  • In Over the Garden Wall, it's revealed that the Woodsman is going through this in regards to their missing loved one. Although he is the one actually lost, not his daughter.
    • Denial: They refuse to believe their loved one is dead, just that her soul is maintained in the lantern, kept alive by their work. His daughter's soul is not in the lantern.
    • Anger: When the Woodsman found out that the Beast had tricked them, the former lashed out against the latter.
    • Bargaining: They literally made a Deal with the Devil to keep his daughter alive.
    • Depression: They become heartbroken realizing there is no way to bring his daughter back.
    • Acceptance: It is only when the Woodsman accepted the truth and their actions, that they are able to leave the Unknown and reunite with his daughter.
  • 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.
  • 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 (Anger), where Vince confronts Chad and tries to reason why he can't be a geek (Bargaining), where Vince despairs over whether he will become a geek like Chad (Depression), and where Vince realizes that Chad has his badass moments too (Acceptance).
  • 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.
  • 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 pilot episode to Ruby Gloom, Frank and Len believe that Ruby is dying and each time they talk to her, they think that she is going through these stages.
  • 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.
  • The Simpsons: In "One Fish, Two Fish, Blowfish, Blue Fish", 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: (relaxed smile) Well, we've all got to go sometime.
    Hibbert: Mr. Simpson, your progress astounds me!
  • Sofia the First: Amber hits all five beats throughout the Pilot Movie as part of her jealousy towards Sofia. She is initially unwelcome and denying of Sofia after she is inducted into the family, becomes angered when she steals all the attention at Royal Prep, willingly gets James to play the Enchanted Swing Set prank on her and ruins her dance lesson with a pair of trick shoes as payback, breaks down after James tells her out and ruins her ball gown, but the maids are unable to come to her aid, and finally admits her guilt to Sofia and in return, accepts her as a true sister.
  • Steven Universe is actually a more realistic version of this: different characters seem to be stuck in different stages rather than going through a perfect order. Concerning Steven's Missing Mom, Rose, we have Greg mostly settled into Acceptance, with the Crystal Gems, being immortal, stuck between depression (mostly Pearl), Denial and Acceptance. A flashback episode shows them in the Denial/Bargaining phase, though, each believing that somehow Steven can be used to bring her back. (He's kind of her Reincarnation. It's complicated.)
    • The villains are actually going through this too, for Pink Diamond. Blue Diamond seems to be stuck in Depression and Bargaining for thousands of years (though she may have been in Anger back during "The Answer"), crying at the drop of a hat, wallowing in self-pity at the expense of running the Empire and doing everything she can to try and preserve what belonged to Pink as though she will eventually come back to reclaim them. Yellow Diamond, however, is trapped between Denial and Anger, wanting to destroy everything associated with the deceased in order to forget her. Ironically enough, Pink Diamond is Rose Quartz, meaning she isn't as dead as Blue and Yellow think. White Diamond seems to be trapped in a form of Denial, as not only was she completely unfazed by Pink's "return" after thousands of years of supposedly being dead, convinced that the war and her faked death was a "game" Pink was playing, but she is also convinced that Steven is just another method Pink is using to hide from herself and the rest of the universe.
  • Steven Universe: Future: "The Future" has a much more humorous take on this trope: When Steven tells the Crystal Temps that he's moving away, the three fall into different stages: Bismuth goes into Denial and Bargaining by suggesting that she build him a nice vacation house just outside of Little Homeworld, Peridot immediately lapses into Depression and sheds many tears before everyone else inevitably does, and Lapis' response is Anger even as she gives him a firm reminder that he can't run away from himself (because she'd tried that before).
  • In Teen Titans Go!, Cyborg and Beast Boy go through this after Robin gets rid of their couch in "Lazy Sunday". (With Raven narrating the Five Stages of Grief to the audience.)
  • Devin from Total Drama Presents: The Ridonculous Race undergoes this after his girlfriend, Shelly, broke up with him for her tennis instructor.
  • In Trolls: The Beat Goes On!, Branch "kills" Sky Toronto's tie, Sky Jr., making him too depressed to run his factory. After Branch tries and fails to run it himself, he finds a bearded Sky who goes through all five stages in under 15 seconds, which he refers to as "power-grieving".
  • 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.


Video Example(s):


"Death of a Dream"

According to Captain Ed, the Death of a Dream (specifically dreams of being a Rock Star) come in five stages.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / FiveStagesOfGrief

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