The Five Stages of Grief

Back to Life! A Personal Grief Guidebook

The five stages of grief more than likely refer to the Elizabeth Kubler-Ross model of grief.

The stages are usually depicted as;

1. Denial

2. Bargaining

3. Anger

4. Sadness, melancholy, depression, tears,ect.

5. Acceptance

There are other models of the grieving process, but this is the one which is most often recalled by the public.

It is my understanding that Kubler-Ross actually observed this in patients at a hospital who were given a diagnosis of a terminal illness.

There is some question that this model could be generalized to the survivors, but it has been, and I like to teach using it simply to indicate to my clients that there is a rhyme and reason to the grieving process, and it really needs to be attended to with some consciousness.

The Stages of Grief For Ungrieved Losses

Many of the clients who come to my domestic violence psychoeducational classes have significant losses of trust and innocence, some dating to childhood, which were never grieved, because they have bought into the stoic, mid-western belief system that says, "I don't have any pain or gain or shame, I just get the job done."

One of the jobs of life, and one of life's greatest teachers, is losing loved one's, ideals, innocence, trust, and then working to regain trust.

That regaining of trust is accomplished by consciously attending to the stages of grief and feeling them.

In other words, since the stages do not occur in a linear fashion for a set period of time, I may act and think as if I am in denial, feel anger at God or the deceased or myself, then acceptance, then sadness, then I may bargain with God or the deceased, and even decades later, there can be an anniversary reawakening of feelings for a parent or a pet or a comrade in arms.

It is not necessary to be consumed by grief, although it may feel like that at moments, however for the most parts the intense feelings are not going to happen throughout the course of the five stages of grief.

So what can you do for a loss that was never grieved?

Well, if an individual has a safe place and safe people around, it is very possible to create a ritual funeral for the loss, and to tap the intense feelings.

I have seen many people do this, and walk away from a process with great relief and fully prepared to do the remaining grieving with some intention and attention.

I know that when I go home to Kansas, where my mother, brother, and father are buried, I make it a point to visit their graves and do grief work.

I do that so that the people around me, particularly my children, are not subjected to my abandonment issues when they need time and attention.

What that means is that grief not processed makes it hard to accept even a child's love, because they will leave just like the other person or thing left.

So there is a risk in loving anytime and that is the pain of love ending.

The good news is that we as humans have been going through this for millenia and we survive it, with the help of our friends and communities.

Our funerals and traditions make moving through the five stages of grief much easier.

One of the traditions I most like is planting a tree in honor of someone important to me, so there is a living memorial.

The link below provides access to an oak tree. I hope you will consider this kind of memorial which brings great beauty to many people every year. 

Back to Life! A Personal Grief Guidebook

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Would You Share Something That You Are Grateful For?

When I was beginning my personal growth journey, a wise person told me that when I was feeling resentful or afraid or sad, that I should remember the phrase "gratitude is the attitude" when I was ready to feel better. That phrase has helped me feel better tens of thousands of times.

Would you share what you are most grateful for? Your story could be just what another person is searching for to renew themselves? Thanks.

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