Five Stages of Grief
‘Five Stages of Grief’ – also known as the Kübler-Ross Model, was derived from the book “On Death and Dying” (1969) written by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross.
These five stages were proposed with the belief that grief and mourning is a universal feeling when we lose our loved ones and we all go through some similar phases during the bereavement. Kübler-Ross has specified that different people experience these five stages in different orders and sometimes, people don’t experience any of the five stages.
The five stages of grief given by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross are described below:
“This is not happening.”
When we experience the loss of a loved one, or hear that they might not live longer, we often deny that it is happening. What we feel at such times can be overwhelming and it is quite normal to react with denial. Denial is a common defense mechanism, as suggested in psychoanalysis, wherein our unconscious mind uses denial to protect ourselves from a big trauma. We repress our emotions to take ourselves away from the reality of what is happening.
“Why did this happen?”
As our mind comes back to the conscious state from the phase of denial, the repressed emotions come to us at double the speed, due to which, we might feel overwhelmed. Whilst we are trapped in this whirlwind of emotions, it is very normal to feel anger towards whatever is happening around us. Our mind often questions, “Why did this happen?” and since there is no correct answer to that, we express our anger. The anger can be directed towards the person who passed, the reason why they passed or even the situation.
“It would not have happened if only…”
In times of grief, we often feel helpless and vulnerable. We lose control of our emotions and to regain the control, we start questioning our past actions. The series of “what ifs” and “if only” might lead to guilt and frustration. Bargaining is often followed by guilt. Thinking that the situation would have been different if you had done something different is what leads to bargaining. While feeling this way is normal, it is very important to consciously understand that there is nothing that can change what has happened.
“There is no coming out of this”
While we are experiencing grief, our mind slowly brings us in contact with reality, as we realize denial, anger and bargaining is not going to help, and we become fully aware of the heaviness of the situation. As we come in contact with our emotions, we feel the undeniable pain of losing our loved one. The sadness and melancholy that comes with this is called depression. We might find ourselves isolating ourselves, expressing via tears and not reaching out to people. Dealing with depression is important to make sure it does not stay with us in the form of repressed trauma.
“Yes, this has happened.”
Not everyone reaches the stage of acceptance. Losing someone you love can be incredibly traumatic, and you have to actively tell yourself to act and react a certain way and do certain things to accept the loss and come out of the grief. This is the stage wherein we have accepted the loss and don’t feel the burden of the loss anymore. Sadness can be still present but the heaviness is gone. However, even in this stage, our mind uses the aforementioned tactics to protect ourselves from trauma.
Now that we have learnt about the five stages of grief, it is very important to understand that different people grieve differently and we might not all experience the five stages in the specific order. We might experience something different than what has been mentioned. Your pain is unique to you and your way of dealing with it is unique too.