The Five Stages of Grief


If you or someone you love is suffering through the grief process, please pick up at least a couple of the above books.  They were written by experts in this field.  In fact, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross was a Swiss American psychiatrist who specialized in near-death studies.  She is the author of the groundbreaking book On Death and Dying(1969), where she first discussed what is now known as the Kübler-Ross model, which documents the five stages of grief –

  • Denial — “I feel fine.”; “This can’t be happening, not to me.” Denial is usually only a temporary defense for the individual. This feeling is generally replaced with heightened awareness of possessions and individuals that will be left behind after death.
  • Anger — “Why me? It’s not fair!”; “How can this happen to me?”; ‘”Who is to blame?” Once in the second stage, the individual recognizes that denial cannot continue. Because of anger, the person is very difficult to care for due to misplaced feelings of rage and envy.
  • Bargaining — “I’ll do anything for a few more years.”; “I will give my life savings if…” The third stage involves the hope that the individual can somehow postpone or delay death. Usually, the negotiation for an extended life is made with a higher power in exchange for a reformed lifestyle. Psychologically, the individual is saying, “I understand I will die, but if I could just do something to buy more time…”
  • Depression — “I’m so sad, why bother with anything?”; “I’m going to die soon so what’s the point… What’s the point?”; “I miss my loved one, why go on?” During the fourth stage, the dying person begins to understand the certainty of death. Because of this, the individual may become silent, refuse visitors and spend much of the time crying and grieving. This process allows the dying person to disconnect from things of love and affection. It is not recommended to attempt to cheer up an individual who is in this stage. It is an important time for grieving that must be processed.
  • Acceptance — “It’s going to be okay.”; “I can’t fight it, I may as well prepare for it.” In this last stage, individuals begin to come to terms with their mortality, or that of a loved one, or other tragic event.

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross was a psychiatrist and author.  Throughout her career she wrote more than 20 books dealing with the natural phenomenon of dying; the first, and best-known, “On Death and Dying,” was released in 1969. This book introduced the five stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. These stages are now associated with any major loss or life-changing experience. Her work was instrumental in strengthening the hospice movement in the United States and made the study of the psychological, social, and physical issues associated with dying an important and accepted part of medical training. She was the recipient of twenty honorary degrees in science, law, humanities, and divinity. In 1999, she was one of Time Magazine’s “100 Most Important Thinkers of the Century.” In 2007 she was inducted into the National Woman’s Hall of Fame.

I hope this material is helpful in addressing some of the issues surrounding the process of grieving.  These books are meant to be a supplement to the counseling that is provided by an individual who is trained to help individuals work through the grieving process so they can return to a fulfilling and joyful life.

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