Elisabeth Kübler-Ross was the pioneer in placing the various stages of grieving into five categories:
I recently had the humbling experience of being an “on call” support line for a very dear friend for the past two months after her father sustained a significant physical trauma which resulted in his death last week.
As we talked (and sent phone text messages) daily over the past 7-8 weeks, the various stages of grief surfaced – not in a semblance of order and definitely not in a linear fashion, but more similar to peaks and valleys. In fact, during the short period of time of the visitation and funeral on Monday, my friend moved through some anger, depression, acceptance, back to depression, back to acceptance all through the course of a few hours.
I also had a recent conversation with a young woman who is experiencing another “death” of sorts – the death of her pre-baby marriage partnership. She and her husband have moved to a very different marriage partnership which includes parenting of a new member of their family. Her emotions included anger (frustration) and depression (sadness) at the same time.
What this week has taught me is that death can occur not only in a physical form but also can be an emotional death and dying as well. I recalled the time when I went through my divorce and the feelings I experienced were similar to those when someone close to me had died. I moved through various stages of grief because I truly was experiencing a death at the time of my divorce – the death of me… the very essence of who I had been in that relationship.
Anytime we deal with a significant change that alters or removes an emotional or physical presence in our lives, there is a potential that we will experience one or two stages of grief or we may go through the full cycle and range of emotions.
The one recurring theme that arose out of my conversations with the two women I spoke of earlier centered around the following:
- We are human.
- What we are feeling is normal for people going through similar experiences.
- We are not bad or wrong for feeling the way we do and we have a right to have those feelings.
- We are never alone.
Kübler-Ross started the conversation regarding the five stages of grief in response to those experiencing the physical aspects of death and dying but her grief model gives great insight into how we may react to any emotional and/or behavioral change that we may be undergoing at the time.
Do you agree that we can move quickly (within a matter of minutes or hours) between the various stages of grief when in the midst of any change that we may deem stressful or life-altering?