Updated: Oct 26, 2020
“This is too much! Why does it hurt so much? Is it normal to feel angry? When will I start feeling better? Will I ever get over the death of my spouse (child, parent, sister, brother, best friend)? I feel all alone. Will anyone ever understand me? What is happening to me?”
Grief is a natural response to losing someone or something very important to us and as such, it is a necessary and needed process.
While the circumstances of grief are different and every person grieves differently, the core experience of suffering is universal. Grief is our reaction to change that we didn’t want. Grief occurs in all walks of life – whether you are grieving a loss of a person, a relationship, or the life as you used to know, there is no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to the grieving process.
When we go through a painful experience of loss, grief, and bereavement, we have many questions. And we want to know the answers. In the attempt to find a meaning for our pain, to find answers for our bereavement, we often go online and google the information about grief and loss. These are probably just some of the questions you want to find answers to online.
Today, information is literally at our fingertips – you can find everything you want online. Some of the information you’ll find is accurate. However, you’ll find some inaccuracies as well. When you search for answers, you need to be a savvy researcher in terms of understanding what that material is there for and what the context of it is and its original intent.
Unpacking Elizabeth Kubler Ross’ Five Stages of Grief
Usually, when you want to learn more about the grieving process, you will find information about five stages of grief:
Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, a psychiatrist and a pioneer in near-death research, came up with the theory of the five stages of grief, also known as the Kübler-Ross model. However, Kübler-Ross concept of five stages of grief has often been taken out of context.
They will tell you, “This is the five stages you’ll go through while you grieve.” And this is a huge misconception.
Namely, the stages of grief Kübler-Ross came up with do not relate to a person who is in the process of grieving a loved one. The author came up with these stages of grieving process based upon her research, looking at those that were actively dying. As she sat with the people who were in the process of dying, these were the things that she observed:
This is the first stage the person who is actively dying goes through. “This is not happening to me” – the person who is grieving a loss of their life refuses to accept the reality of the situation.
After the stage of initial shock, the person usually gets angry at God, at themselves, those around them, etc. For example, in a person who never smoked, a lung cancer diagnosis may provoke anger and profound frustration.
The person may try to ‘strike a deal with God’, for example, promising that they will spend more time with family and friends or that they will spend more time with family again if they get another chance.
The person finally begins to accept the situation. However, acceptance is usually accompanied by profound feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and fatigue.
The person begins to understand and accept the situation – “Yes, this is happening to me” – and to acknowledge that illness is going to impact their life and sometimes their death.
It is important to understand that these processes refer to persons who are actively dying and not the ones who have lost their loved ones and now are looking for a strategy to get them out of the process of grief and loss quicker.
It is wrong to think that you will go through these stages of grief in a linear format and after that you will be done with the grieving process. It is wrong because there is no cookie cutter formula for your pain.
Yes, you will get to the other side of it but you must go through it.
Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s work has been taken out of context for a very long time. These were the five threads, themes or stages that she identified while sitting at the bed of actively dying people during her research.
Again, most people who are actively dying go through denial, they become angry, they begin to bargain, they become depressed, and then finally, they accept their fate, their situation.
So please put these stages of grief in their proper context so that you can achieve good mourning!