A Writing Prompt: The 5 Stages of Grief

Check out the digital writing prompt (link below) made especially for the three week mark until the deadline.  21 days left to submit your work.  Dive in…

Dear Sister Anthology Writing Prompt from Lisa Factora-Borchers on Vimeo.


Many survivors already know this:  that after you are raped, you are never the same person again.  More specifically, someone has died and new person is born.  And like a newborn, the new person must learn first how to survive and then eventually, live.

The five stages of grief is a psychological theory.  It outlines and supposes five stages of emotional battle the can occurs in the aftermath of loss.

The first stage is denial.

Survivors may tell themselves it never happened.  It wasn’t rape.  The person who did this is my friend, my boyfriend, girlfriend, relative, lover, spouse, neighbor.  It wasn’t rape.

The second stage is anger.

Survivors can live in a room full of anger, resentment, bitterness, self-blame and self-loathing for weeks, months, sometimes years.  They have recognized what has happened and the emotions are often overwhelming.

Bargaining is the third stage.

Bargaining is giving ourselves false hope because we cannot deal with our reality. We look to recover what was lost or taken.  We lost our sense of wholeness and cannot deal with our brokenness, so we jump into a relationship, alcohol, drugs, work, sex…believing that if we do something, we will get what we once had.  Bargaining looks different for everyone, but regardless of what the behavior is, the hope is trying to get back what cannot be recovered.

Fourth stage is depression

Nearly every survivor will combat depression in some form.  Disinterest in previously enjoyed activities, frequent crying spells, trouble sleeping, sleeping too much, changes in appetite.  There are numerous symptoms of depression and most survivors will describe it in two words: dark numbness.

The fifth stage is acceptance.

Acceptance doesn’t mean that we’re happy or that we don’t revisit the other stages from time to time.  Acceptance means acknowledging that something has lost and we are not the same person as before.  A new way of living must be learned and while the road is long, a first step was taken.

As a survivor, do you remember a certain stage you may have experienced?  Do you remember moving through that part of your life?  What got you through?  When did you turn the corner?  Who helped you?

In your letter, remember that the survivor is in a raw place, perhaps not even certain of what just happened.  Focus not on the darkness, but what brought you to the next place, on what acceptance looked like for you.  What brought you into the light?

2 thoughts on “A Writing Prompt: The 5 Stages of Grief

  1. noemi says:

    I appreciate that you say it “supposes” this five stages. And it’s not so clear cut as a five step program, you shuffle from this four to five to three to five again, fall in for some reason back to one. And I don’t know, but I wouldn’t describe the acceptance as “the light”-there can be a next place, I hope there is for all survivors, but it’s not always a shiny wisdom place either.

    • I agree.

      It was hard to take out all of my own personal thoughts and addendums to the theory. I don’t think anything in healing – or life for that matter – follows a sequence in order, but I think it gives us a lot of helpful ways to rethink our own progress.

      And, yes, “the light” is most definitely not about happiness – or wisdom as you pointed out – but I think there is SOMETHING that changes when survivors grow from some form of denial or silence to admitting/understanding they were raped.

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