Psychologist Elizabeth Kübler-Ross had developed a theory that outlines the generalised stages that many people who suffer grief, would likely go through. The most important facet to her theory is the limitless time period for each stage.
“Grief is the process that allows us to let go of that which was and be ready for that which is to come.”
– Elizabeth Kübler-Ross
Going through each stage of grief is essential, when an individual yearns to move on. Don’t mistake ‘moving on’ as forgetting – instead, it entails the idea of remembering and familiarising oneself to the new environment that ensues. It is no stranger to anyone, that becoming an accomplice to grief is a mentally torturous experience, especially after an affliction of death.
“Grief must be witnessed to be healed”
The 5 stages are established as:
“We’re all in denial about the people we love”
– David Geffen
The very initial reaction to grieving is DENIAL. It is known to be the result of triggering the emotional defense mechanism. This cycle begins with a null rejection of the news they hear as it goes to heart as an immediate pang of surprise. Conspiracy theories and related questions may come to mind –
“Why are you lying to me?” – As an attempt to reason their disbelief… “But I just saw him/her yesterday”.
The habituation to one’s new surrounds will greatly influence anyone in Denial. Any small cues or reminders to the deceased person will follow through, similar to a Domino effect. Whether there are silent or not so silent cries the individual will do their best to just NOT accept. Whether it is short or long – it is an inevitable step to overcome in order to further progress in grieving.
“Anger doesn’t solve anything. It builds nothing but it can destroy everything”
– Lawrence Douglas Wilder
Feeling ANGRY is being at the height of all emotions. It is one of the 6 universally recognized emotions and can be expressed in many different forms – from irritation to blinding rage. It is known to psychologists, as a method to alleviate pain, so it is natural to feel deserted and abandoned. The power behind anger is the ability for one to feel as if they have control over the situation. It is an anchor for them to feel grounded. Anger is an overwhelming experience that is known to be synonymous to the intensity of your love for the person you are grieving for. Although it is vital not to submerge oneself into this stage for too long, it is necessary to touch base with.
“There will be no bargaining on values”
– Clemente Mastella
When the BARGAINING stage comes, one will feel at war with the world. Re-runs of the event that took place will repeatedly play in the mind. ‘If only’ will become a phrase of familiarity, as guilt slowly engulf their thoughts. This is the last chance that one will try to embargo pain. They will begin to realise that their countless negotiations for bringing their loved one back on Earth will cease to work. Significant shots of anguish and a gradual loss of hope will begin to form. Some sort of religious or non-religious form of truce will eventuate, before partaking a step closer to acceptance.
“Depression is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of being too strong for too long.”
– Hayley Stevens
The realisation of the extent of pain that accompanies the death of loss will imminently hit oneself. The early signs of DEPRESSION include the lack of sleep, poor appetite, fatigue and lethargy. One may begin to self-pity and feel profoundly lonely. This emptiness that may devour one’s sense of identity will detriment the entirety of their course of the day. A black hole may consume the individual and fearing there is no escape, they may want to end it right there and then. Feeling nothing can look like a better option than feeling everything. But it is guaranteed that after this stage, everything will look much brighter.
“Dying is something we human beings do continuously, not just at the end of our physical lives on this earth”
– Elizabeth Kubler-Ross
ACCEPTANCE is probably the most relieving one. One can exasperate to those around:
“I don’t feel it anymore”.
This in no way entails forgetting about the occurrence of the death – it merely means regarding and acknowledging the happenings, and realising that it is time to move on. Yes, one may occasionally feel guilty for forgetting. One might even hate them for that. But what one won’t do is sulk in misery for a prolonged period – no longer, will the thought of the person’s death be a detrimental impact to one’s life. They will slowly become accustomed to their new way of life. The grief may stick with them for the rest of their lives, however it will be controlled. Grief will be sufficiently suppressed.
At the end of the day, the appropriate love and support must be provided for a person to more quickly approach acceptance. All the stages are notably a necessity to consecutively tackle before the next. It is not an uncommon phenomenon to backtrack from one stage back to the previous one.
Use the infographic image below is a reference for the five stages of grief: