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The Five Stages Of Grief: Exploring The Kübler-Ross Model

The Kübler-Ross model is one of the most well-known models of grief which posits that we will go through 5 different stages, in no specific order, while grieving.

What is the Kübler-Ross model?

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The Kübler-Ross model, commonly known as the Five Stages of Grief, is a popular theory developed by Swiss-American psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross on how people generally deal with death, loss and grief. The theory was initially developed to help terminally ill individuals accept their impending death. However, the model was later adapted by author and grief expert David Kessler to apply to tragedy and grief as well.

The model involves five stages that do not necessarily occur in any particular order:

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance

Read also: 5 Realities of Grief and Loss that Impact Upon Anxiety

Understanding the Kübler-Ross model

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In her theory, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross explained the 5 different stages of grief which is commonly referred to as DABDA. The 5 stages of grief as mentioned in the model includes:

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance

The model involves our attitudes when we confront death, whether our own or our loved ones. This is how our mind tries to cope with the emotional pain and psychological trauma of losing someone we love. However, people going through loss and grief will not necessarily experience all the stages or in the order listed above. 

“Not everyone will experience all five stages, and you may not go through them in this order,” writes author Kimberly Holland in a Healthline article medically reviewed by Timothy J. Legg, Ph.D., PsyD, CRNP, ACRN, CPH. Kimberly adds “Grief is different for every person, so you may begin coping with loss in the bargaining stage and find yourself in anger or denial next. You may remain for months in one of the five stages but skip others entirely.”

Here are the Five Stages of Grief according to the Kübler-Ross model:

Denial

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Denial and isolation is the first reaction to tragedy and grief which is a result of disapproval, shock, and rejection. Denial is a defense mechanism that allows us to accept the loss and alleviate the sudden attack of pain. When we first learn about the reality of the situation, we often find it hard to believe. Hence, we deny the tragedy in our minds. This is a common and natural reaction to pacify our overwhelming emotions. Denial and isolation provide us the time to accept the reality gradually and allows us to process our emotions.

“Denial is the stage that can initially help you survive the loss… In the denial stage, you are not living in ‘actual reality,’ rather, you are living in a ‘preferable’ reality. Interestingly, it is denial and shock that help you cope and survive the grief event,” explains Christina Gregory, Ph.D. She adds “Once the denial and shock started to fade, the start of the healing process begins. At this point, those feelings that you were once suppressing are coming to the surface.”

Read also: 5 Essential Tips for Dealing with Grief and Coping With Loss

Anger

As denial starts to wear off and we begin to accept the reality and the accompanying pain. But as we are not ready to let these intense emotions engulf us, we try to redirect and deflect our emotions from feeling vulnerable to feeling strong through anger, according to the Kübler-Ross model. Anger can manifest in various ways. We may feel angry at God, doctors, ourselves, the deceased loved one, friends or family, strangers, or even inanimate objects. Anger offers us strength when we believe there is no reason to carry on anymore. When we feel lost and don’t have any purpose to move on. Hence, our anger may manifest in the most unusual ways and in the most unexpected situations. We may even feel guilty for being angry. Unfortunately, this can lead to more anger. But we need to remember that this is a natural process and we must acknowledge all our emotions, even anger.

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Theo Harrison
Hey there! I am just someone trying to find my way through life. I am a reader, writer, traveler, fighter, philosopher, artist and all around nice guy. I am outdoor person but heavily into technology, science, psychology, spiritualism, Buddhism, martial arts and horror films. I believe in positive action more than positive thinking.
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