1. Denial: No one honestly believed that Harbaugh would really leave. From the early season whisperings of Harbaugh losing the locker room until deep into the season, few people really believed Harbaugh's tenure with the 49ers was coming to an end. After all, he had turned the team into a contender after being irrelevant for a decade. Three straight NFCC games and a Super Bowl appearance is nothing to turn your nose up at. With two weeks left in the regular season, no one in the media was talking about if he would stay, only about where he was going to go. Fans, however, up until his UM press conference were thinking/hoping/praying that there could be a some sort of miraculous 'burying of the hatchet' between Harbaugh and the front office. We all know how that played out. Denial is a temporary response that carries us through the first wave of pain.
2. Anger: There is a lot of it, towards the Front Office, towards owner Jed York and GM Trent Baalke for sending Harbaugh packing. Some of the 49er faithful are still lingering in this phase, not ready to let go of the past and look towards the future. During the frustrating 2014 season anger was directed mostly towards former OC Greg Roman who interestingly just said he could have made the 49ers the top rushing team in the league if he had wanted to, but with winning being the priority, a balance was needed. If that isn't salt in the wound, I'm not sure what is.
How could the organization let Harbaugh go? A coach who was named AP Coach of the Year in his debut season, a coach whose regular season record was 44-19-1 and post season record was 5-3. This is the stage of resentment. Anger towards who has caused this pain is natural and not being able to alter the circumstances only increases these feelings of frustration. You can see the manifestation of this stage on twitter and other various forms of social media. (search: Jed York)
3. Bargaining: Now that former 49ers QB coach Geep Chryst has been named OC, there is less bargaining to be done. "If they get a great OC, I won't be so angry," was the common theme among fans. Several notable coaches interviewed for the job, but it seemed like the front office was turned down more than a few times, most notably by the Philadelphia Eagles WRs coach Bob Bicknell who'd rather stay in his current position than take a higher level position with the 49ers. Chryst is known for calling the "Vernon Post" play that clinched the 2011 divisional playoff vs. the Saints, but the decline in QB Colin Kaepernick's production in 2014 doesn't create a bevy of confidence in this choice. It must be noted that there were seven different OL combinations used this past season and that greatly impacted the protection that Kaepernick had to work with. Missing OT Anthony Davis for nine games was a tremendous challenge to attempt to overcome.
4. Depression: Sadness, hopelessness, dejection. Please note: depression is not a sign of mental illness. This is a natural feeling after a great loss. Now that the coaching staff has been set and skepticism is the predominant emotion, a football season without Harbaugh, olive jar references and Dalai Lama quotes just seems pointless. Grief is a process and depression is a very necessary step towards healing. The worst part about football is the long offseason where these feelings can linger and manifest.
5. Acceptance: This may not happen for some until the 49ers win, for others the seed has already started to germinate, because after all, you can't change the past. Harbaugh is now the HC of the Michigan football team, and when he comes back to the NFL (which he will) he will be on the opposite side of the field upon his return at Levi's Stadium. It will be a much shorter timeframe for a Vic Fangio sighting on the opposing sideline as the 49ers will head to Chicago in 2015.
There will be good times and bad, good games and bad. What has been lost can never be replaced. Adjusting and learning to live with the new regime will take time. The addition/rehire of Tom Gamble as Senior Personnel Executive has already helped accelerate the acceptance process. A good draft class and a successful free agency wouldn't hurt either. Resisting acceptance will only prolong the natural process of healing and in due time, the Faithful will heal and move forward.