Reflection About the Pain of Loss and the Five Stages of Grief, Based on the Work of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

2021-07-02

Reflection About the Pain of Loss and the Five Stages of Grief, Based on the Work of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross was a Psychiatrist who was born in Switzerland in 1926, having developed a pioneering and relevant work with terminally ill patients, during the 60’s.

She is the author of several books and her first book “On Daeth and Dying”, written in 1969 is the best known, and it profoundly marked her professional path.

In her book On Death and Dying, Hübler -Ross proposed a model with the existence of five recurrent reactions in people facing death. These emotional stages occur not just with people who are terminally ill, but also with people who experience a loss, getting started with the grief process.

The first stage is considered the Denial and Isolation - phase, where the person is confronted with the news of death and verbalizes disbelief regarding the reality of the fact. The person stays incredulous and can meet a personal isolation, which is perfectly natural, since it is the beginning of the grieving process.

It is advisable that professional and friends let this phase flow, without interference, offering a friendly shoulder and simply listen, once that the person falls into a very painful reality and is invaded  by negative feelings.

The second stage is Anger. After the stage of Denial it’s natural if a feeling of anger arises, with questions such as “Why me?”; “Why is this happening”, “Why now?”, getting to criticize the circumstances, people and events related to the loved one’s death.

The absence of satisfactory answers increases the expression of verbal anger, that can become physical, because beyond the pain of having lost a family member, the person thinks of all the projects that she had, and that she will no longer be able to perform.

In this stage it is important to promote a spirit of tolerance to deal with these anger expressions, because it’s a way to relieve suffering feelings, closely linked to the hard reality in which the person finds herself in.

The third stage is Barging. According to Kübler-Ross, this stage is the least known, but very critical in the whole process. The negotiation attempt is replaced by the anger feelings and reactions. The person tend to feel the need to verbalize“ if only I could have done or said, …” as if this speech allow a return to the previous reality.

In this stage, it’s essential for family members to be aware of signs that can help to identify and overcome any guilt feelings.

The fourth stage is Depression. The depression stage is considered  part of the process, and it’s important to evaluate the sadness signs and how long it lasts, although it’s not considered pathological at this stage. The person starts to have awareness of the loss, and changes that are running in her life, staying longer in the present moment.

Be surrounded by company and receive encouragement can help a lot at this stage.

The fifth and last stage is Acceptance. This stage represents the culmination of the grieving process, where the person accepts the events. In this context, accepting does not mean that everything is fine, but just be able to integrate the absence into her daily life, adjusting routines, according to the new reality.

These stages can be total or partially experienced and in an alternate way, not meaning a backtracking, since that the grieving process is not the same for everyone nor one-way, depending on person to person.

Although there are other approaches to the griefing process, this model is the one that gathers still today greater unanimity, and helped to explain the emotional reactions facing death. The author thus leaves a very valuable legacy, supporting her idea that there is a need to reflect on death issue as much as we can talk about it, the better we can face life.

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