5 Stages of Grief

Most people have heard of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross‘ 5 Stage Model.  Although this was originally related to the experiences that people had who are dying, it quickly became attributed to the grieving as well.  During the 1960s, Ms. Kubler-Ross interviewed hundreds of dying people to see how they felt about their impending deaths.  What she found was that there were similarities between people depending upon where they were in relation to the timeline of their prognosis, for example, just having learned of their disease, close to death, etc. She based her 5 stage model on this: initial shock/denial, then anger, next bargaining- “if you let me live I’ll…”, depression, and finally acceptance.  She reported in her work that those caring for the loved one also experienced these stages, thus the relation to grieving.

Since K-R’s initial work, there have been other studies and of course, criticisms and disagreements.  I think her work is still very important simply because it got people talking about death and dying.  It made it ok for people to talk about how they feel about their own deaths and for people to admit that death is painful, life altering, depressing yet something everyone must face so not something to be shut away in the closet.  Whether her findings were 100% accurate or not, they started a movement that would offer great relief to many people.  There is still a  long way to go to where death and grief  are as freely and openly acknowledged as life in our society so that people don’t have to suffer so much in silence and go on after a respectable time as though nothing has happened.


7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Rebecca Carney - One Woman's Perspective
    Jan 21, 2012 @ 15:37:25

    Although I agree that the writings of Kubler-Ross got people talking about death and dying, the “five stages” theory rather took on a life of its own beyond what Kubler-Ross intended (or so I understand). They are now quoted as the accepted “standard” norm (steps or stages) for grieving everything from loss of a favorite necklace to death of dear loved one. I don’t so much struggle with the general concept of the emotions (outlined in the Kubler-Ross stages) encountered with grief, as I struggle with the rigidity sometimes applied to them by others.


    • Cindyss
      Jan 23, 2012 @ 19:53:50

      I agree Rebecca. People seem to get so hung up on “what stage should I be on and when” that it can cause a whole new set of problems. And then other people look at and judge people who are grieving based on them and think something is wrong with them if they skip a stage or seem stuck in a stage. There’s so much more that’s been learned about all of that since her work which I plan to write about here as well but sometimes I get a bit annoyed with other researchers who seem to put her down for what she produced. As with most theories and works, there’s always room for fine tuning and I doubt she meant it to be the only answer. Well, that’s one of the struggles with death and grief, people tend to look for “the” answer. Thanks for your comment.


  2. momshieb
    Jan 21, 2012 @ 21:44:11

    Cindy, my class has been reading the book “the tiger rising”, where a little boy and his father have been denying their grief over thecdeath of the mom. It has madecfor some very touching discussions. I think that children are more open to discussing death because they aren ‘t as defended as we are. Your post made me a little more comfortable having these discussions.


  3. Trackback: Setting the Stage « Namaste Consulting Inc.
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