Updated January 21, 2020
Many people have contested the validity of the stages of dying, but here we are more concerned with the supposed stages of grief which derived from the stages of dying.
As professional grief recovery specialists, we contend that the theory of the stages of grief has done more harm than good to grieving people. We have co-authored three books on the impact of death, divorce, and other losses, and have worked directly with over 100,000 grieving people during the past 30 years. Our reasons for disputing the stages of grief theory are predicated on the horror stories we’ve heard from thousands of grieving people who’ve told us how they’d been harmed by them.
In 1969 the psychiatrist ELISABETH KUBLER-ROSS wrote one of the most influential books in the history of psychology, On Death and Dying. It exposed the heartless treatment of terminally-ill patients prevalent at the time. On the positive side, it altered the care and treatment of dying people.
On the negative side, it postulated the now infamous five stages of dying—Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance (DABDA), so annealed in culture that most people can recite them by heart. The stages allegedly represent what a dying person might experience upon learning he or she had a terminal illness.
“Might” is the operative word, because Kübler-Ross repeatedly stipulated that a dying person might not go through all five stages, nor would they necessarily go through them in sequence. It would be reasonable to ask: if these conditions are this arbitrary, can they truly be called stages?
From Dying to Grief
Elisabeth Kübler-Ross was a fearless pioneer who openly took the medical profession to task for its callous disregard for the feelings of dying people. The subtitle of On Death and Dying explains the book’s primary focus: What the Dying Have to Teach Doctors, Nurses, Clergy, and Their Own Families.
The lessons Kubler-Ross learned from those dying people, coupled with her compassionate regard for them, became a focal point of the emergent Hospice movement. Somehow, over the years, the real virtues inspired by her work have been subordinated to the inaccurately named, largely imaginary stages.
During the 1970s, the DABDA model of stages of dying morphed into stages of grief, mostly because of their prominence in college-level sociology and psychology courses. The fact that Kubler-Ross’ theory of stages was specific to dying became obscured.
Students who eventually became therapists, social workers, or doctors carried what they learned about the stages into their careers. The media also played a role in disseminating the idea that specific, inexorable stages of grief exist. When a tragedy makes the news, newscasters and alleged experts recite the DABDA model of grieving. Medical and mental health professionals and the general public accepted the theory without ever investigating its provenance or validity.
In fact, Kubler-Ross’ stage theory was not the product of scientific research. In the second chapter of On Death and Dying she laments: “How do you do research on dying, when the data is so impossible to get? When you cannot verify your data and cannot set up experiments? We [she and her students] met for a while and decided that the best possible way we could study death and dying was by asking terminally ill patients to be our teachers.”
She then explains her methods: “I was to do the interview while they [her students] stood around the bed watching and observing. We would then retire to my office and discuss our own reactions and the patient’s response. We believed that by doing many interviews like this we would get a feeling for the terminally ill and their needs which in turn we were ready to gratify if possible.”
The phrase, “we would get a feeling” is especially revealing since Kubler-Ross’ feelings were processed through the filter of her life-long unresolved grief and retained anger. We know that because she went public about the anguish of her past in her final book, On Grief and Grieving, co-authored with David Kessler and published shortly after her death in 2004.
In the final chapter, titled My Own Grief, she tells the gruesome story about an episode involving her father and a cherished childhood pet that caused her to make an oath never to cry again. That event, along with a host of other personal grief incidents, resulted in her bottling up a lifetime of anger that she admitted she didn’t deal with until very late in life.
When you read about Kubler-Ross’ life, you sense how much her painful past may have colored her interpretation of her interviews with dying patients. Interestingly, anger is the only stage Kubler-Ross contends is absolute for everyone in dying, or in grieving relationships with those who have died.
It seems as if the palpable anger she carried for years caused her to insist we all must have anger about loss. We’re not sure why Kubler-Ross felt compelled to convert her observations from the interviews into stages. Possibly she believed that what she heard in her interviews with dying people was actually stages that needed to be quantified, or perhaps she simply attempted to put a scientific face on anecdotal evidence.
Download our free Grief Recovery Method Guide for Loss Ebook
When Does Wide Acceptance Equal Scientific Fact?
On February 21, 2007, The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA)published the results of the Yale Bereavement Study (YBS): An Empirical Examination of the Stage Theory of Grief. The YBS evaluated a hodge-podge of alleged stages.
It starts with the assumption that stages of grief exist, and then attempts to use that assumption to prove that they do. However, the existence of stages has never been established as fact. The results appeared to confirm some stages, negate others, and reposition their order and value.
We cannot give any credence to the YBS because its premises and conclusions are flawed. But, since the study’s own language perpetuates the myth that stages of grief even exist, we’ll use it to make our case.
The YBS begins: “The notion that a natural psychological response to loss involves an orderly progression through distinct stages of bereavement has been widely accepted by clinicians and the general public.” It concludes: “Identification of the normal stages of grief following a death from natural causes enhances understanding of how the average person cognitively and emotionally processes the loss of a family member.”
We are troubled by the assumption that stages of grief are normal and distinct and progress in a specific order. We also wonder, when does “wide acceptance” equal scientific fact?
Contrast the alleged wide acceptance of an “orderly progression of stages” with this from the inside cover of Meaning Reconstruction & the Experience of Loss, edited by Robert A. Neimeyer. He wrote, “Debunking the notion that an invariant sequence of stages of grief occurs among all who experience the death of a loved one, this groundbreaking volume clearly demonstrates that highly individual processes of meaning making are at the heart of grief dynamics.”
Published by the American Psychological Association in 2001, Neimeyer’s book presents 26 academicians’ and clinicians’ non-stage methods for helping grieving people. Neimeyer also addresses methodology in his introduction: “At the most obvious level, scientific studies have failed to support any discernible sequence of emotional phases of adaptation to loss or to identify any clear endpoint to grieving that would designate a state of ‘recovery.’” Although Neimeyer’s book was published prior to the YBS, his contributors were familiar with earlier studies that attempted and failed to quantify stages.
Dabbling in DABDA: A Stage by Any Other Name
Prior to publication of her famous book, Kubler-Ross hypothesized the Five Stages of Receiving Catastrophic News, but in the text she renamed them the Five Stages of Dying or Five Stages of Death. That led to the later, improper shift to stages of grief. Had she stuck with the phrase catastrophic news, perhaps the mythology of stages wouldn’t have emerged and grievers wouldn’t be encouraged to try to fit their emotions into non-existent stages.
Adding irony to the stages debacle, Kubler-Ross’ final book, On Grief and Grieving, is subtitled, Finding The Meaning Of Grief Through The Five Stages Of Loss. Confusingly, inside the book they’re called the Five Stages of Grief. Stages of loss conveniently fit the new book on grief and confirmed the chameleon-like capacity of the word stages to arbitrarily mean whatever Kubler-Ross or anyone else wants it to mean.
Refuting The Alleged 5 Stages of Grief
Kubler-Ross may have been the first to advance a specific stage theory about dying, but others preceded her in the area of grief. John Bowlby, Colin Murray Parkes and several others advanced theories about grief based on stages or phases, using a variety of labels. Alternate terms for the stages they used include: Disbelief, Numbness, Yearning, Shock, and Guilt. As we refute the stages, we’ll address the most commonly used stages and point out how they have the potential to harm grieving people.
1. (a) Denial (b) Disbelief (c) Shock (d) Numbness
(a) Denial. In our thousands of interactions with grieving people we have never found one person who was in denial that a loss had occurred. We ask, “What happened?” They say, “My mother died.”
There’s no denial that someone died. We’ve had a few people tell us someone died and then say, “I’m in denial.” We ask, “Do you mean the person isn’t dead?” They say, “No, but I’ve heard ‘denial’ is the first stage of grief.”
In the opening chapter of On Grief and Grieving, Kubler-Ross and Kessler state, “For a person who has lost a loved one, however, the denial is more symbolic than literal.” We have to wonder: if denial is merely symbolic rather than literal, why call it a stage?
(b) Disbelief. The YBS uses disbelief rather than denial. Disbelief, as expressed by most grievers, is rhetorical language, as in, “I still can’t believe he’s gone.” Although disbelief may reflect the emotions of a broken heart, it is really a figure of speech rather than a statement that a death didn’t happen.
(c) Shock. In cases of sudden, unexpected deaths, it’s possible that upon receiving the news, a surviving family member may go into emotional shock, during which time they’re in a suspended state, totally removed from events in the real world.
This response is rare and doesn’t last very long. Most deaths are at the end of a long-term illness or of old age, and don’t produce shock in the survivors. However, there are books that maintain that shock is a standard stage of grief. There is no evidence to support that idea.
(d) Numbness. Numbness is one of the most common physiological responses to a grief-producing event. We reference numbness because the YBS coupled it with disbelief as if both are stages.
Grief related numbness is the result of an overload of emotional energy in reaction to a death. Many grievers report numbness as intermittent in the immediate aftermath of a death, which usually gives way to a lack of focus or limited concentration. However, numbness is not a stage, nor is the inability to concentrate.
Potential Harm. Time can’t heal emotional wounds, but the word “stage” implies that time is a component. The suggestion to grievers that they’re in a stage of denial or disbelief can freeze them into inaction.
They bury their feelings waiting for time to make that stage pass. Later they’re liable to be diagnosed with “complicated bereavement” and put on psychotropic drugs, which makes it difficult or impossible for them to access the emotions they’ve buried.
Professionally Induced Harm. Many grievers tell us that a mental or medical health professional “strongly suggested” they were in the denial stage when all they’d said was that they were having some difficulty since Mom died.
Even after reiterating they were clear that Mom had died, the therapist insisted they were in denial, which created a breach of trust and safety. The grievers terminated therapy after one or two ineffective sessions and left their grief unattended. We believe those professionals overlooked a cardinal rule of helping grievers, which is: “Hear what your client is telling you, as opposed to having your own agenda.”
When an elderly loved one dies at the end of a long-term illness, there’s usually no anger in those left behind. Along with feelings of sadness, there may be a sense of relief that the suffering is over.
Things do happen relevant to a death that can make us angry: anger at a disease or God; anger at doctors or hospitals or the drunk driver who killed our loved one; even anger at loved ones who didn’t take good care of themselves, or who took their own lives. But anger is not a universal feeling when someone important to us dies and therefore is not a stage.
Potential Harm. When anger is perceived as a stage, there are no actions the griever can take to end it. They must stay angry as long it lasts or as long as they’re alive.
As we said, stages imply that time is an element, so when time fails to end that stage, people recreate and re-live anger for years. Staying angry can have dangerous consequences, causing people to damage relationships, lose jobs, and worse, affect their health or restrict their will to live.
Professionally Induced Harm. Grievers repeatedly tell us the same scenario about anger as about denial. They report that a mental or medical health professional “planted” the idea they were in a stage of anger, when nothing they’d said would indicate that this was true.
3. (a) Bargaining and (b)Yearning
(a) Bargaining. Kubler-Ross’ bargaining stage may make sense for someone diagnosed with a terminal illness. “If you’ll just give me another chance, I’ll take better care of myself,” is a plea someone might make to whichever deity they believe in. But, it doesn’t relate to the grief people feel when someone important to them has died.
(b) Yearning. The YBS substitutes yearning for bargaining. Since 83.8% of the participants in that study were widows or widowers, most over the age of 60, we’re not surprised that many of them yearned for their lost partner. Talk to thousands of widows/widowers, as we have, and you are guaranteed to hear that most of them miss the person who died, including the surviving partners who were half of a 40-year relationship of constant bickering.
Potential Harm. The death of a long-term spouse creates an incalculable amount of emotional energy. Those feelings are often accompanied by an overwhelming sense of missing the person and wanting the familiarity of their presence back.
Missing someone who has been a constant part of your life for decades is normal and to be expected. Again, calling it a stage suggests a time frame, causing them to wait for that stage to end which adds exponentially to their grief.
We’re going to address depression in greater detail than the other alleged stages because it carries with it a great deal of confusion and potential danger for grieving people. Here is a list of reactions common to grievers that are also symptoms of clinical depression:
- inability to concentrate
- disturbance of sleeping patterns
- the upheaval of eating patterns
- roller coaster of emotions
- lack of energy
One list fits both, and that’s the problem. Are grievers clinically depressed? With very few exceptions, the answer is “no”, and in those few cases only if they were clinically depressed before the death that affected them.
Grief is the normal reaction to loss, but clinical depression is abnormal and requires different treatment. The line between grief-related depression and clinical depression has become hopelessly blurred, in part because the medical and mental health professions have adopted the non-existent stages of grief.
Potential Harm. It is normal for grievers to experience a lowered level of emotional and physical energy, which is neither clinical depression nor a stage. But when people believe depression is a stage that defines their sad feelings, they become trapped by the belief that after the passage of some time the stage will magically end.
While waiting for the depression to lift, they take no actions that might help them. If and when they seek professional help, they use the self-diagnosis of depression to describe themselves.
Professionally Induced Harm. When medical or psychological professionals hear grievers diagnose themselves as depressed, they often reflexively confirm that diagnosis and prescribe treatment with psychotropic drugs. The pharmaceutical companies which manufacture those drugs have a vested interest in sustaining the idea that grief-related depression is clinical, so their marketing supports the continuation of that belief.
The question of drug treatment for grief was addressed in the National Comorbidity Survey (published in the Archives of General Psychiatry, Vol. 64, April, 2007). “Criteria For Depression Are Too Broad Researchers Say—Guidelines May Encompass Many Who Are Just Sad.”
That headline trumpeted the survey’s results, which observed more than 8,000 subjects and revealed that as many as 25% of grieving people diagnosed as depressed and placed on antidepressant drugs, are not clinically depressed. The study indicated they would benefit far more from supportive therapies that could keep them from developing full-blown depression.
Acceptance, as it relates to psychology or emotions, is a vague and amorphous term. Since there is almost never denial or disbelief that a death occurred, the concept of acceptance is confusing, if not moot. The YBS asked grievers to assess the level of acceptance they’d achieved about the death of someone important to them. This is an odd question because they had to have accepted that the death occurred or else they wouldn’t have been in a bereavement study.
Potential Harm. One definition of stages cannot fit all people, or all relationships—in fact we don’t think they fit anybody. For example, an 85- year old woman whose spouse of 62 years has died reports a different emotional picture about her life and response to that death, then does a 62-year old woman whose 85-year old father has died. Both involve 62-year relationships, but the idea that there could be a stage of acceptance applicable to both is illogical.
Another Non-Stage: Not Guilty As Charged
Of all the incorrect ideas and feelings that are defined as stages of grief, guilt is undoubtedly the most unhelpful. We’ve seen it in dozens of books and heard it in hundreds of lectures. As those authors and speakers define it, guilt more accurately represents things the griever wishes had been different, better or more in relation to the person who died. It’s not about a sense of having done something with the intent to harm the person who died, for which the idea of guilt might make sense.
Personal Danger. Grieving parents who have had a troubled child commit suicide after years of therapy and drug and alcohol rehab, are often told, “You shouldn’t feel guilty, you did everything possible.”
The problem is that they weren’t feeling guilty, they were probably feeling devastated and overwhelmed, among other feelings. Planting the word guilt on them, like planting any of the stage words, induces them to feel what others suggest. Tragically, those ideas keep them stuck and limit their access to more helpful ideas about dealing with their broken hearts.
Conclusion: The stages of grief myth
We understand that people engulfed in the aftermath of loss want to know what to expect and how long it will last. Such questions can never be satisfactorily answered. Since every griever is unique, there are no pat answers about grief.
As much effort as we’ve put in to refuting the stages, Kubler-Ross herself rebuts them better than we can in the opening paragraph of On Grief and Grieving:
“The stages have evolved since their introduction, and they have been very misunderstood over the past three decades. They were never meant to help tuck messy emotions into neat packages.
They are responses to loss that many people have, but there is not a typical response to loss, as there is no typical loss. Our grief is as individual as our lives. Not everyone goes through all of them or goes in a prescribed order.”
If there are no typical responses to loss and no typical losses, and not everyone goes through them or in order, how can there possibly be stages that universally represent people’s reactions to loss?
The fact is, no study has ever established that stages of grief actually exist, and what are defined as such can’t be called stages. Grief is the normal and natural emotional response to loss. Stage theories put grieving people in conflict with their emotional reactions to losses that affect them. No matter how much people want to create simple, iron-clad guidelines for the human emotions of grief, there are no stages of grief that fit every person or relationship.
This article was originally published in the November 2008, Volume 14, Number 2 issue of Skeptic Magazine.
For other articles from the Grief Recovery Institute, visit our Grief Blog to search for information, or you can subscribe to our blog to receive new articles as they are published. One blog you may want to read that helps to define grief is our article on The Best Definition of Grief You Will Find
Deanna L. White
Thank you so much for this site and this page of explanation. I lost a grandson last Spring(2011), went to two sessions with a highly recommended counselor and did not go back. Much of what I have just read here is directly helping me today! I will be coming to one of your training groups soon! This is needed! I hope I can qualify for training with you.
Cherie Renfrow Starry
Great article! It certainly brings home the point that "grief" is indeed complicated. Thank you for your dedication in providing thought-provoking topics that our society does not bring into the spotlight very often even though it affects each of us somewhere along our journey through life.
Cherie Renfrow Starry
Mental Health Counselor, Therapist
Thanks for stopping by Cherie, glad you enjoyed the article!
Just reading this helps with a few tings making sense.
Grief in itself is an individual thing. Almost like a recipe.
Some days turn out good and somedays are a flop. Thats how I feel.
I have read your books and many of your online articles, etc. I am now in a Thanatology program at a local community college and your material has been very helpful and resourceful. Having lost both my parents, a friend to suicide, a divorce, and a son to a car accident, I've experienced various kinds of grief and I think your material is right on track! Thank you for sharing it.
Thanks for your note, and good luck with your studies.
Russell and John and the Grief Recovery Method Team
Thank you for this article. 21 years ago I too worked with a therapist who insisted on telling me the "stage" I was in after my husband Joe died. It was nothing less than utterly confusing to me. I often wondered when I would be through all of the 5 supposed stages of my grief. Having read Kubler-Ross's book when I was a freshman in college as a nursing student, I was quite familiar with the stage theory but, did they really apply to me? Needless to say, I didn't continue working with my therapist and continued my grief journey alone. I have survived and thrived and now help other widows to go through their grief journey supported and not labeled. Still today, at least twice a week, someone refers to the "5 stages of grief" and once again, I negate that they apply to the grief journey.
Dr. Kathleen Ayl
Thank you for this wonderful article. Over the years of working in the area of Pet Loss Support, I have had numerous clients call or present to my office, distraught over the fact that they believe themselves to be "going backwards" or "going crazy". Somewhere along the line that heard about the "stages of grief" and relied on it as though it were a template for grief. As you have pointed out...there is no such thing. Grief is a 100% individual experience not only in comparison to other people but within oneself in comparison to past losses. As my Guru, Russell taught me many years ago, the grief one experiences depends solely upon the relationship and the intensity of the relationship being mourned in the present. On top of the horrendous ache and trauma many are experiencing when they sit before me, so often (because of the misinformation about the stages) they are also beating themselves up emotionally for "not doing it correctly" instead of doing what they need to do in order to heal and nurturing themselves through this most painful time.
Again, thank you...you have touched the lives of many!
Well, I guess I'm through with DABDA! I have used that model for decades but what I read today makes too much sense. I have an old copy of The Grief Recovery Handbook, pages turning yellow, authored by James and Cherry, googled The Grief Recovery Institute and here I am. Amazing what google can deliver:) I'm going to check into some training. Thanks for the good work and wisdom displayed here.
Love hearing about your old copy of the Handbook. As authors, we've been exceptionally fortunate to be able to upgrade our book and bring the best possible help to grieving people. We're also thrilled that our articles can help people see that some ideas about dealing with grief may not have been correct - as with the DABDA model - and that with better information, better help and recovery are possible. We hope you get to one of our Certification trainings soon. Warm regards, Russell and John and the Grief Recovery Method Team
Eric Anderson, MD
I attended a John James lecture to the medical profession many years ago in San Diego, California. I was impressed enough to write an article for the American Medical News in January 2004. Your advice helped me over my own grief. http://www.ericandersontravel.com/articles/surviving/article.htm
Thanks for your note, and interesting that the event in San Diego took place way back in 1995.
It never ceased to amaze us how people remember the things we say about grief and recovery - because they ring true.
John and I send warm regards to you,
I so love this outstanding article and it's how I came to discover your organization. I have never believed in the stages of grief that are so widely accepted and talked about. I never experienced many of them after the loss of my late husband Rob to suicide, although did at different times experience some of the emotions.
Once I started working with others I was often told they were in one stage or another, or that they felt something was wrong because they weren't experiencing the stages in order or in fact, experiencing many things described within the stages theory. Some were holding themselves back from recovery simply because they didn't feel it was time yet, that they hadn't yet experienced all the stages.
Very detrimental to healing and recovery, so thank you for dispelling the myth.
Lost my long time partner 3 no ago. I cared for him at home as I am an RN and hospice nurse.I still feel sad and mad that he left me alone. It is difficult having family understand since we were gay. I can not expires my loss so I quit talking. Is this usual?
All the stages of grief are emotional buffers to help digest a death to the final stage of total acceptance and release. Bargaining is a stage many people get stuck in so is important not to dismiss. People change their lives, become activists, dwell on what could have been, carry out the loved ones life work, a host of behaviors that all allow the griever to avoid the final goodby. Many people hold the deceased in a state of "heaven" or "watching over me" so as not to have to ever say goodby. Some of these are not as harmful grieving methods as others, but ultimately everyone should put their loved one to rest and move on with complete joy for their own life. It is 100% okay that people die and you bury them and say goodby and you have only loving feelings left in your heart.
It's been 85 weeks since the passing of my wife and I find myself continuing to cycle through the stages - the emotional roller coaster. Perhaps that is why I find myself drawn to these types of websites. I found your discussion of depression quite interesting - I'm not clinically depressed? I was never depressed before my wife's death and still haven't experienced loss of energy or disruption in sleep patterns. I immerse myself in exercise and follow a spartan diet - sort of like punishing myself for being alive. My reason to wake in the morning is to exercise and care for my dog and cat. I am not wanting for anything material so see no reason to work to maintain an existence that I dislike. Engaging in physical fitness activities seems to be the only way one can go out into public and not feel like an oddball. I really hate walking the planet alone, but have accepted my existence - now I'm angry. I look at my wife's picture daily and tell her " I can't believe you're gone."
Has anyone EVER believed the "stages" to be anything BUT a myth, or at best, a story ? I've NEVER, not once, in my life met anyone, professional or otherwise, that have claimed that the "stages of grief" actually exist. And certainly not on the news, as you claim. I've only ever seen it referenced in fiction, often in sit-coms, where it's often part of the plot how silly the notion is to begin with. And when "regular" people mention them, it's more in the vein of "there might be something in it, in certain conditions, but mostly it's a good story". It's good that you are clearing up a misconception here, but don't plant another myth at the same time, the myth that the Stages of Grief was ever anything more than just a story to people.
giuseppe zanotti outlet
I love what you guys tend to be up too. This sort of clever work
and exposure! Keep up the wonderful works guys I've you guys to blogroll.
Madden Mobile Cheats
Everything is very open with a very clear explanation of the challenges.
It was really informative.Your website is extremely helpful.
Many thanks for sharing!
While I respect the fact that you are looking at grief in general terms, I strongly disagree with what seems to be dismissiveness about grief. You repeatedly refer to normal, age-related death or from a disease that spans over time. However, you don't address the reality of grief as it pertains to sudden loss. I lost a sister to murder and the reality of grief and feelings associated with that are real. To generalize statements about stages of grief being false is professionally irresponsible. In your effort to dispute Kubler-Ross' work, you dismissed the validity of very real pain and emotional suffering that those who unfortunately experience a death due to horrific circumstances.
Thank you for your comment on this particular blog post. I am so sorry for your loss. Losing someone you love, in any way, is painful. We are not saying that grief and those feeling associated with it are unreal, in any way. In fact, we believe quite the opposite of that. Kubler-Ross' work was based upon death and dying, not grief. This article is directed toward the work that she actually did, which was on the stages of death, not grief. The research and subsequent stages of death pertaining to Kubler-Ross' work was done on people who were suffering from long illnesses. There are no stages of grief, and Elisabeth Kubler-Ross would be one of the first to agree with this. Her work was based upon death and dying from the perspective of the person dying. You might find that one of our other blog posts on grief would be more helpful for you, such as https://www.griefrecoverymethod.com/blog/2015/06/how-grief-recovery-meth... or https://www.griefrecoverymethod.com/blog/2013/08/why-you-should-never-sa....
We stumbled over here by a different page and thought
I may as well check things out. I like what I see so now i am following you.
Look forward to looking at your web page for a second time.
My son died of suicide a year and a half ago, at the age of 23. He sent a time-delayed email to his then girlfriend that he was ending his life, as a result of her ending their relationship. When the police came to my home to gain access to his apartment, I remember following them to his building praying that this was not happening. His was an upstairs apartment and the police entered first, then turned me back on the stairs. I never saw my son in his final state, and whether from confusion or not being informed, did not arrange for a final viewing. He was simply cremated and a few days later I came home from a memorial service with an urn of ashes. I also had not seen him for almost 6 weeks prior to his death due to my seasonal work load. The shock is real...I still have trouble accepting that he is gone. At times I look out and see his car in my driveway and get excited that he has come to visit - only to remember that he will never be visiting me again. I have found myself incredibly angry in the past month, at the unfairness of life, the exceptional occurrences of painful events that I have had to deal with throughout my life, only to have the one thing I was so proud of being taken away. Interesting enough, I too had a cruel event happen as a young child involving my parent and my pet. I am beginning to realize this anger is the result of a lifetime of stuffing it down and moving forward, and can only hope I can come through this a better person. Beyond the shock and anger, it is an emotional roll-tide and being told I am in the "stage" of anything is invalidating. Thank you for this refute of the widely-accepted stages of grief, as a griever I can attest that it is complete rubbish.
Cali, I am so sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing your story. I cannot imagine what that must feel like. I'm glad that you found this article useful, and I hope that it will help you moving forward. Not effectively dealing with grief does build up over time. I hope that you will get a copy of our Grief Recovery Handbook and read it, as I think that it will help tremendously with your losses over your lifetime. If you have any questions at all, please e-mail us at [email protected] or call us at 800-334-7606.
Good article. I certainly appreciate this site. Keep writing!
Just lost my wonderful, beautiful, compassionate, intelligent cousin. She was always completely engaged in life. Such a shock when I visited her 10 days before her death, to see and feel her absence from most of her house. Beauty everywhere, but no feeling of her there. Then went upstairs to her room, to sit and visit with her bedridden self. She was as usual absolutely present. But she was engaged fully in dying, not living.
Thank you for your Web article. This is not my first loss by a long chalk. But my numbness and slight difficulty engaging with my friends and family has frightened me a bit since my cousin's passing on December 27th. So much is happening in life right now that requires my attention and love. I appreciate the reminder that numbness is not the absence of love or caring, but rather a temporal protection.
Kate, we are very sorry for your loss and are glad that you found some useful words in the article.
I too lost my wife of 24years on April 22, 2015. She was my wife, my lover, my best friend, my family and my hero. I lost more than a wife so my grief has been enormously painful. Without her, life is purposeless and has no joy. For a while, I concentrated on her loss and have been miserable. Would she want this for me? The answer is no! Now, I want to honor her legacy and be grateful she enriched my life. Her death is part of human experience, It is natural as we all die some day. Instead on dwelling on her loss, I find joy remembering her for what she gave me, happiness and unconditional love. I celebrate her gift to me. I cannot resurrect her physically, but I can keep her memories alive in my heart and soul ... This will make her rest in peace knowing that instead of punishing myself grieving, she sees I am abundantly grateful and celebrating HER, instead of being "stuck" on her death. Death took her, but I will never take away her sweet memories or the love I feel for her.
I have lost my only child in 2009. He was involved in a terrible car accident on his way to school. He was turning 6 years . My heart still hurts so much and I have days I cry as if it just happened.
We are so very sorry for your loss and cannot imagine what you are still going through. If you would like to find a Grief Recovery Specialist in your area who can work with you on the loss of your child, you can search here: https://www.griefrecoverymethod.com/grief-support-groups. We hope that you can connect with someone and start to feel better soon. If you have any questions or need anyone to talk to, please e-mail us at [email protected]
Hi, I thought I was going crazy because I was not going through the so called stages. My husband died suddenly in front of me 8 weeks ago. I was never numb or in disbelief (I was there so I know it happened), I have no anger towards my husband or my God. I know through my beliefs that we all have an appointed time. Who am I supposed to be angry with? I know my husband would not wanted to have left us and I know we all die one day. I grieve and I move forward each day, I break and I move forward. I am glad I found this because I was starting to question my grieving process. I tried a grief group and that's not for me. I journal and read books and that helps. I know the process will get easier with time. I miss my husband dearly, we were married for 28 years...
Julie, we are so sorry for your loss. Everyone grieves differently as each relationship is unique. We are glad that you found this article to be helpful.
While I appreciate the thoughtful article, it seems you start from a place where you have an axe to grind regarding the idea these are stages, to be passed through like some sort of karmic car wash. In order for you to tear down that structure, you get dismissive at times of the various experiences described by that stage. Even more troublesome is use of the same evidentiary tool, anecdotal description, you decry in the original work. It at times feels like a case of "pot, meet kettle."
Kubler-Ross herself said that these are five distinct experiences. The original writing was misinterpreted because we tend to like things organized, like a musical scale. But if you instead view it as a staff, each experience as a note, then you can picture each individual writing their own symphony, as it were. Few melodies are exactly the same... but how many songs follow a basic four-chord structure?
You are correct, the model needs tweaks. But throwing it out completely reads to your own biases. I humbly ask you revisit your thoughts on this.
Interesting article. As an LCSW, I often find that while people come to see me for one thing such as trouble concentrating at work or relationship issues, they are processing their grief over the loss of a loved one in the past year which has or is impacting the issue they came to see me about. More and more I see people who thought they put their pain to rest but at the six to twelve month mark feel "alone," "short tempered," and/or "easily agitated." When I ask them to tell me about the last year they mention their loss; when I explore further, they shed tears and usually say "I haven't talked about it enough." In our society people are, in my experience, afraid to talk about lost loved ones and if that's not part of the healing process I don't what is. Someone should write about that! :)
Thank you, Amy! I have passed your comment and suggestion on to Russell Friedman so he can add it to the list of topics to write about.
Add new comment