Friday, May 29, 2009

Stages of Grief

As a Therapist and Grief Educator I am often asked about stages of grief. I am asked if there are stages of grief? What are the stages of grief? How long does each stage last? Why have I not experienced all the stages of grief? I get many questions in regards to the stages of grief. Therefore, I thought I would address the topic about stages of grief.

I do believe there are different stages in the grief process. There are many different professionals that will give you many different grief stages and definitions to stages. The stages that appeal to me the most are those set forth by legendary Elisabeth Kubler-Ross.

I have always admired the work of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. She first introduced her model in her book "On Death and Dying" back in 1969. Kubler-Ross was a medical doctor that worked with terminally diagnosed and dying patients. She determined that there are 5 stages of grief. Those stages being: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance.

Originally the Kubler-Ross Model/Stages were used with the terminally diagnosed and dying patient. However, many believe that these same 5 stages can be applied to anyone suffering a loss and/or catastrophic event. I personally believe the 5 stages can offer a simple explanation to a grieving person. With that being said, I would also like to point out that the stages do not necessarily come in a specific order. It is also important to note that some people may not experience every stage. I view the stages as a circular model that can be changed, rearranged and revisited. Therefore, don't expect to graduate a stage and head on to the next stage.

Unfortunately, there isn't a model of stages of grief that fits everyone. But, I have found the stages set forth by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross can offer an uncomplicated explanation of grief to most people.

So, how long does each stage last? Well, that is a great question. But, it doesn't have a set answer. Each person will experience the stages in different ways and in their own time. The stages of grief will last however long it takes. Every person has a unique history and set of circumstances that they bring with them into the grieving process. Therefore, each person must realize their situation and grief process will vary from person to person. You will find similarities among grievers, yet each person's journey will be unique.

The most important thing to recognize during the grieving process is to be able to discern whether or not you need professional support for your grieving process. Some people are able to walk the journey alone. While others benefit from seeking support from friends, support groups, and/or mental health professionals. You do not have to walk this journey alone. Seeking help/support does not mean you are weak. In my opinion it shows you are being active in finding helpful ways to heal. Remember, you have a broken heart...not necessarily a broken mind.

Lastly, if you find the 5 stages of grief by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross interesting, I encourage you to do further research. I only listed the stages. She wrote many books on the stages with great detail of each stage. So, check with your local libray, bookstore or web for more information. If you have any questions about this article, please feel free to post a question and/or leave a comment.

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