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What do you know about The Stages of Grief?

Emma Tomes |
May 3, 2022

A lot of clients and organisations I work with have heard about Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and her work.  Elisabeth spent her career working with people who were dying and in her 1969 book, “On Death and Dying,” she wrote that she felt there were five stages very common for terminally ill patients facing the end of their life. 

These stages of grief were identified as denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Elisabeth found that while some went through these stages in order others bounced back and forth between them. Her work was very important in understanding the experience of people facing their own death. 

Unfortunately, many people overlook that her work was specifically from the viewpoint of someone facing their own death. The “five stages of grief” have been used, and sometimes misused. In some cases, her work has been taken out of context its original context. Often, I hear people describe these stages as something that a griever will go through after the death of a loved one, or another significant emotional loss. 

There are some schools of thought that suggest that failure to complete the grieving process in a pre-set time frame (for example 6-12 months) might indicate someone would benefit from a referral for support.  

The challenge comes when people assume that grievers must experience Kübler-Ross’ five stages in order or try and influence them into going through them all. This is not helpful and can be confusing for the griever. It can lead them to feeling as though there is something wrong with the way they are experiencing grief. 

As a Grief Recovery Method Specialist with  The Grief Recovery Institute, I firmly believe that to tell grievers they “must” go through these stages serves no purpose and does nothing to help emotional recovery. It’s more helpful to remember each person is different and each loss is different. 

Afterall grief is an emotional experience, rather than an intellectual one. The Grief Recovery Method is founded on helping people discover what is incomplete and unfinished in each individual relationship and helping them take the necessary actions to work through that unfinished business on an emotional level. 

If you’d like to learn more about how to help someone grieving, you can download my FREE helpful guide “Helping someone grieving”. Lastly, if you are looking for 1-1 support or would like to provide your workplace with workshops about the subject of grief please contact me and we can discuss your needs.

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