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The Stages of Grief – Some misconceptions about Kübler-Ross’s work

The idea of five stages of grief is explored in a little more depth
The image shows the Kubler-Ross grief cycle. The stages from left to right are Denial, Anger, (to be helped with information and communication) Depression (to be helped with emotional support), and Bargaining and Acceptance (helped with guidance).
© On Grief and Grieving: Finding the meaning of grief through the five stages of loss, Elizabeth Kubler Ross & David Kessler, 2005

Elizabeth Kübler-Ross said:

The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same, nor would you want to.

At the top of this article is an image showing the stages of grief that Kübler-Ross described, and many people have heard of these.

Often however, Kübler-Ross’s work has been understood to mean that once you work through the different phases of grief you will reach ‘closure’ or a resolution of the bereavement process. The quotation above makes it clear that this is mistaken. We’ll revisit this idea shortly and in more depth when we look at continuing bonds after death.

Reflections: Have you heard of the idea of ‘stages of grief’? What image of how loss and bereavement works has it left you with? From experience of your own or others’ losses of loved ones, how has the process really been?

© On Grief and Grieving: Finding the meaning of grief through the five stages of loss, Elizabeth Kubler Ross & David Kessler, 2005
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Grief, Loss, and Dying During COVID-19

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