The Seven Stages of Grief


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Although this is from a site where parents have adult children in jail or prison, I think it is helpful for all of us. I know I've had to grieve twice...once for 36 and who he is and who I wanted him to be and one for Scott when he left our family. And you DO get to the end of the grieving process!! (eventually). I think this applies to the shock of anytime we find out our adult child is doing something we never expected or can't take in or fills us with fear and despair, not just landing in prison. Just change "imprisoned" to "taking hard drugs" or "is homeless" or "assaulted me" or whatever the problem is.

7 Stages of Grief...


You will probably react to learning of the imprisonment with numbed disbelief. You may deny the reality of the imprisonment at some level, in order to avoid the pain. Shock provides emotional protection from being overwhelmed all at once. This may last for weeks.


As the shock wears off, it is replaced with the suffering of unbelievable pain. Although excruciating and almost unbearable, it is important that you experience the pain fully, and not hide it, avoid it or escape from it with alcohol or drugs.

You may have guilty feelings or remorse over things you did or didn't do with your loved one. Life feels chaotic and scary during this phase.


Frustration gives way to anger, and you may lash out and lay unwarranted blame for the imprisonment on someone else. Please try to control this, as permanent damage to your relationships may result. This is a time for the release of bottled up emotion.

You may rail against fate, questioning "Why me?" You may also try to bargain in vain with the powers that be for a way out of your despair ("I will never drink again if you just let him out")


Just when your friends may think you should be getting on with your life, a long period of sad reflection will likely overtake you. This is a normal stage of grief, so do not be "talked out of it" by well-meaning outsiders. Encouragement from others is not helpful to you during this stage of grieving.

During this time, you finally realize the true magnitude of your loss, and it depresses you. You may isolate yourself on purpose, reflect on things you did with your child, and focus on memories of the past. You may sense feelings of emptiness or despair.

7 Stages of Grief...


As you start to adjust to life with your child in prison, your life becomes a little calmer and more organized. Your physical symptoms lessen, and your "depression" begins to lift slightly.


As you become more functional, your mind starts working again, and you will find yourself seeking realistic solutions to problems posed by life without your child on a day to day basis. You will start to work on practical and financial problems and reconstructing yourself and your life with him or her in prison.


During this, the last of the seven stages in this grief model, you learn to accept and deal with the reality of your situation. Acceptance does not necessarily mean instant happiness. Given the pain and turmoil you have experienced, you can never return to the carefree, untroubled YOU that existed before this. But you will find a way forward.

7 stages of grief...

You will start to look forward and actually plan things for the future. Eventually, you will be able to think about your child/inmate without pain; sadness, yes, but the wrenching pain will be gone. You will once again anticipate some good times to come, and yes, even find joy again in the experience of living


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Thanks for sharing this MWM. I think I'm on step 6 at this point. It's taken a LONG time to get to this step though but I'm happy to be here finally. He called earlier saying his pants ripped and he needed me to bring him new clothes immediately. I said sorry - busy today. And I am but honestly busy doing nothing. husband and I are out back by the pool and enjoying a beautiful August Sunday. In the past I would have dropped everything to rescue him but nah. I'm done with those days. He's a grown man and every cent of any money he gets is either spent on electronics or pot. Instead of wasting money on that crap he can buy himself new pants if it's that important to him. Why should I have to drop everything and run bc he has a problem. He never calls unless he wants something. So nah. Instead I'm going to go for another swim with husband and then make a nice dinner. I'm choosing to enjoy MY life today. It's nice to do that sometimes.

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Annie, 4 is a tough one. No doubt about it. The way I got through it was professional help and Twelve Step Groups (CODA, in my case). Have you ever gone for any sort of help? I felt a lot less lonely once I joined Twelve Step. Before that, I couldn't talk to anyone about my problem, I was in a bad marriage then divorced, and I felt like the only person on earth who had a kid gone wrong. It sure seemed that way. People do love to brag about their adult children's achievements!

Scent of Cedar *

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Ha! That's so true, MWM. When difficult child daughter was actually doing well once (for about fifteen minutes), I bragged about her every time I had a chance to work it into the conversation.

It felt so great, felt like I was one of the lucky ones.

Then everything fell apart again, of course.



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thanks for this. I find remembering that there are stages to grief and loss soothing. I like to step back sometimes and say "oh yeah, what stage am I in? " cause that helps me know that there are other stages too, and that whatever sadness/badness I am feeling will pass on to another stage soon.

I do find that the stages cycle..they are not a straighforward progression. The Elizabeth Kubler-Ross version (which is really about grieving for the death of a loved one, not all that different as we grieve for the loss of the 'childwhomighthavebeen') is a little cleaner, without the combined states. When I read it I can see that I cycle around and around. Maybe when difficult child is dead I'll find some resolution. Unless I get to to the dead part first, of course.

five stages of grief - elisabeth kübler ross
EKR stage Interpretation
1 - Denial
Denial is a conscious or unconscious refusal to accept facts, information, reality, etc., relating to the situation concerned. It's a defence mechanism and perfectly natural. Some people can become locked in this stage when dealing with a traumatic change that can be ignored. Death of course is not particularly easy to avoid or evade indefinitely.
2 - Anger
Anger can manifest in different ways. People dealing with emotional upset can be angry with themselves, and/or with others, especially those close to them. Knowing this helps keep detached and non-judgemental when experiencing the anger of someone who is very upset.
3 - Bargaining
Traditionally the bargaining stage for people facing death can involve attempting to bargain with whatever God the person believes in. People facing less serious trauma can bargain or seek to negotiate a compromise. For example "Can we still be friends?.." when facing a break-up. Bargaining rarely provides a sustainable solution, especially if it's a matter of life or death.
4 - Depression
Also referred to as preparatory grieving. In a way it's the dress rehearsal or the practice run for the 'aftermath' although this stage means different things depending on whom it involves. It's a sort of acceptance with emotional attachment. It's natural to feel sadness and regret, fear, uncertainty, etc. It shows that the person has at least begun to accept the reality.
5 - Acceptance Again this stage definitely varies according to the person's situation, although broadly it is an indication that there is some emotional detachment and objectivity. People dying can enter this stage a long time before the people they leave behind, who must necessarily pass through their own individual stages of dealing with the grief