5 Stages of Loss and Grief
The Kübler-Ross model or the five stages of grief, is a series of emotional stages experienced when faced with impending death or death of someone. The model was first introduced by American Psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her 1969 book, On Death and Dying, and was inspired by her work with terminally ill patients. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross noted that the stages are not meant to be a complete list of all possible emotions that could be felt, and they can occur in any order. Her hypothesis holds that not everyone who experiences a life-threatening or life-altering event feels all five of the responses, due to reactions of personal losses differing between people. The five stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
- Denial. As the reality of loss is hard to face, one of the first reactions to follow the loss is Denial. It is a normal reaction to rationalize overwhelming emotions. It is a defense mechanism that buffers the immediate shock. This is a temporary response that carries us through the first wave of pain.
- Anger. 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. The person in question can be angry with himself, or with others, or at a higher power, and especially those who are close to them. Certain psychological responses of a person undergoing this phase would be: "Why me? It's not fair!"; "How can this happen to me?"; '"Who is to blame?"; "Why would God let this happen?"
- Bargaining. The third stage involves the hope that the individual can somehow undo or avoid a cause of grief. The normal reaction to feelings of helplessness and vulnerability is often a need to regain control. If only we had sought medical attention sooner… If only we got a second opinion from another doctor… If only we had tried to be a better person toward them… Secretly, we may make a deal with God or our higher power in an attempt to postpone the inevitable. This is a weaker line of defense to protect us from the painful reality. Bargaining rarely provides a sustainable solution, especially if it is a matter of life or death.
- Depression. During the fourth stage, the grieving person begins to understand the certainty of death. Things begin to lose meaning to the griever. Because of this, the individual may become silent, refuse visitors and spend much of the time crying and sullen. This process allows the grieving person to disconnect from things of love and affection, possibly in an attempt to avoid further trauma.
- Acceptance. Reaching this stage of mourning is a gift not afforded to everyone. In this last stage, individuals begin to come to terms with their mortality or inevitable future, or that of a loved one, or other tragic event. This stage is marked by withdrawal and calm. This is not a period of happiness and must be distinguished from depression.