Skip to Accessibility Tools Skip to Content Skip to Footer
The Five Stages Of Grief

The Five Stages Of Grief

So you are diagnosed with COPD. It’s a chronic disease that slowly progresses over time. It’s normal for a diagnosis of a chronic disease to cause you some grief. This is often measured by the five stages of grief. What are they? And what do they mean for you? Here’s what to know.

What are the five stages of grief?


Of all the stages, I think this is the reason so many people with COPD are undiagnosed. Here, you brush your symptoms off to aging. You brush them off as trivial. You deny that you need to make changes. You refuse to quit smoking. Moreover, you may even refuse to admit that smoking is harmful. You refuse to quit your job where you’re inhaling something that may contribute to lung diseases.

You refuse to see doctors. If you do, you refuse to admit you are sick. You refuse treatment. You refuse to take medicine. You may need oxygen, but you refuse to wear it. You may be diagnosed with sleep apnea, but you refuse to wear your CPAP. Overall, you insist you are fine.

Since the disease is so slow to progress, this stage may last for many years. You may continue to deny your symptoms until they force you to stop. It may continue until you have a flare-up and end up in a hospital. And even then you may continue to deny it.

So, you can see the importance of physicians recognizing this first stage. The earlier this is recognized and treated, the earlier treatment can begin. This may be integral to living well and living longer for many years even with a diagnosis of COPD.


You feel like punching the doctor who gave you the diagnosis. You feel like punching the walls. You are upset with yourself that you smoked. You are upset with yourself for not wearing a mask at your work. You are upset at your boss for not having cleaner air. You are upset at the government for not passing more clean air regulations. You are upset at your loved ones for not encouraging you to make changes.


Here you ask questions like, “What if I never smoked?” Or, you ask, “What if I never had that job.” You ask, “What if I had listened when I was told to make such and such a change.” You may think things like, “Sure I’m hospitalized for a flare-up, but I’m going to get back to the way things were.”


You feel sad that you have COPD. You worry about how long you will live. You worry about your friends and family members. You worry about how you are going to pay for doctor’s visits and medicine.


Finally, you come to terms with the situation. You realize that you have COPD. You understand that there are treatments for it. You can do it! You educate yourself. You learn as much as you can about COPD. You join communities like ours. You work with your doctor to develop a COPD action plan. You work with your doctor to find what treatments work best for you. You talk to your family and friends about it. You take your medicine. You wear your oxygen. You use your CPAP or BiPAP every night if they are recommended by your doctor.

You do this all because you now understand you can live a quality life for a long time if you work with a doctor and are compliant with the treatment regimen.

It’s normal to feel grief.

COPD slowly progresses over time. For this reason, people with COPD can live quality lives for a long time. Even better, with early diagnosis and treatment, you can live even better and longer. Yet, there will certainly be setbacks along the way. This may cause some of these stages to last a long time. It may cause people with COPD to skip steps, or to go back and forth between steps. Other than acceptance, they are all impediments. How best to diagnose and motivate COPDers to accept treatment is something researchers continue to study.

Newly diagnosed and still have questions? Ask them here!

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

  1. Axelrod, Julie, “The Five Stages Of Grief And Loss,”, https://psychcentr, accessed 6/18/18
  2. Boer, Lonneke, et al., “Assessing the Stages of the Grieving Process in Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): Validation of the Acceptance of Disease and Impairments Questionnaire (ADIQ),” International Journal of Behavoral Medicine, 2014, May,, accessed 6/18/18


  • sardonicus
    12 months ago

    I was diagnoses in late november. I have tried to quit smoking twice and failed. Strangely I can no longer have a cigarette with my morning tea. not until I am showered and dressed can I smoke. Also I can only have 1 cigarette after my evening meal. When I used to get up there would be about 10 butts in the ashtray. Now there is only one one. I dont miss it that much at night but I really miss it in the morning. I used to but a pack of extra strong cigarettes for my tea smokes and then switch to my regular brand. Those days are gone. So I am thinking of trying e–cigs. What is the general opinion on these?…sardonicus

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    12 months ago

    Hi again, sardonicus, and thanks for this post. Although the jury ‘may still be out’ for some when it comes to e-cigarettes, I don’t think there is any question that they, too, are harmful to use. I will let you draw your own conclusions and/or discuss this within the community even further. I thought this article might provide you with some additional insight: What do you think? Leon (site moderator)

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    12 months ago

    Hi Sardonicus and thanks for this post of yours from about 25 minutes ago. (I think it will be below this response). Whatever you can do to stop smoking, you should do it. I’m not here to advise you how to do it, there are many choices out there. You may want to discuss it with your physician – it’s always good to collaborate with someone. But in the end, the choice, naturally, is yours! I’m optimistic that you will be successful since you realize and understand that you ‘have to’.

    I’m not sure what you’re asking about ‘where is my story’. We do have stories section, which you can access here: This section is for community members who would like to post their ‘own story’. Please, feel free to share what you want to there.
    Wishing you well, Leon (site moderator)

  • sardonicus
    12 months ago

    HI LEON: I have heard for years that the only people who quit smoking successfully are those who want to quit. Well I dont want to quit I have to. As far as ecigs go I read on 2 different sites one supposedly by a doctor that the ecigs are more effective than the patch or the gum because they provide the nicotine and the illusion of smoking. As i have said before I am currently under extreme stress. I am living in an apartment that I despise (noisy neighbors ) and have depression and anxiety to cope with. I really dont know what I am going to do….I read the article on the stages and they are right. Before anger there is denial. I did something on Jan. 20 that most guys my age would have a bit of trouble with. The result was not a sign of shortness of breath. So I thought I cant possibly have emphysema. Oh well I know now it was just wishful thinking…..sardonicus..PS: Hey Leon where is my story. You are going to give me a complex.

  • thanks59300
    1 year ago

    I am told stage 2. Never had the cough I hear of. Just chest pain and short of breath. Went to ER almost 2 years ago because of SOB. Then specialist. Is it normal to have just these and no cough at. As time passes I AM getting that need to clear throat more. I am 57. Scared. Single mom. Glad I found this

  • Barbara Moore moderator
    1 year ago

    Hi thanks59300,
    It is my experience that nothing and everything is normal when we are talking about COPD and it is never a good idea to compare yourself with others.
    Go back to you doctor and have a frank talk. One of the best tips I can give you is to keep a diary of your health stating now. Then you will begin to know your normal.
    Barbara Moore (site moderator)

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    1 year ago

    Hi thanks59300 and we appreciate your post and concern. It’s understandable to be somewhat frightened as you begin to understand more about your condition. The more you learn about COPD, the better able you’ll be able to manage it. Besides Allyson’s comment (below), I thought you might find it helpful to look over this article on COPD and the persistent cough: We do have a wealth of material regarding COPD – we’d be more than happy to provide you with whatever additional information which may help you. Wishing you well, Leon (site moderator)

  • Allyson.Ellis moderator
    1 year ago

    thanks59300, I appreciate you reaching out! COPD will affect every person uniquely as no two bodies are exactly the same! While many people do experience a significant cough with COPD, there also those who do not. A COPD diagnosis can feel very scary and overwhelming. Know that many members of the community have lived many decades with COPD – even with advanced COPD, and are still enjoying living life to its fullest, albeit at a slower pace. Doing what you can to stay active and follow your doctor’s treatment recommendations can help slow the progression of the disease. I’m glad you found this community! You may also want to join us over on the facebook page (if you haven’t already) as another source for information, support, and discussion: We are always here to listen whenever living with COPD feels challenging. Please reach out anytime! ~Allyson ( team)

  • Joenwbie
    1 year ago

    Can anyone share their Bipap settings?
    I am on 2.5lt Oxygen 24/7 and have Bipap of 18/14

    I am stage 3 in COPD

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    1 year ago

    Hi again, Joenwbie and thanks for your post. This particular article by John Bottrell is about “The Five Stages of Grief” in terms of dealing with one’s COPD condition. Your question appears to be focused on BiPAP. Did you intend to post it in this section? Leon (site moderator)

  • Poll