The Stages of Grief and Loss

The Stages of Grief and Loss

In my previous blog I spoke of disenfranchised grief and how people who are close to us and those in the community experience may at some stage experience some form of loss which is not acknowledged or recognized. When people experience a loss they often go through a range of thinking processes and emotions. The theoretical framework that has often been referred to is that of the Kubier – Ross Grief Cycle Model. This model has five specific stages of grief which Freeman (2004) explains that the journey of terminally ill patients prior to death or people that have lost a loved one may experience. The five stages are as follows:

  1. Denial: Is a conscious or unconscious refusal to accept facts, information, reality, etc., relating to the situation concerned. It’s a defence mechanism and perfectly natural. It is easy for people to become stuck at this stage when dealing with traumatic events.

  2. Anger: Can manifest in different ways. People dealing with emotional upset can be angry with themselves, and/or with others, especially those close to them. Anger can also be expressed towards the deceased.

  3. Bargaining: Traditionally the bargaining stage for people facing death can involve attempting to bargain with whatever ‘god’ the person believes in. Bargaining rarely provides a sustainable solution, especially if it’s a matter of life or death.

  4. Depression: This stage is characterized by feelings of sadness and regret, fear, uncertainty, etc. This is an indication that the person has at least begun to accept the reality of the loss.

  5. Acceptance: This stage symbolises emotional detachment and objectivity. The grieving individual is beginning to come to terms with their loss. The bereaved make an effort to move on with life.

When considering the Kubier – Ross Grief Cycle Model it is important to acknowledge that the grief process is not linear. As Baxter & Diehl (1988) described grief as being fluid and therefore most people do not progress through the stages of the model in a methodical manner. Santrock (2007) explained that Kübler-Ross expressed the belief that these stages do not necessarily come in order, nor are all stages experienced by all patients. However, she believed that a person always experiences at least two of the stages. Kübler-Ross reported that people often experience several stages in a "roller coaster" effect—switching between two or more stages, returning to one or more several times before working through their grief

In relation to the Kubier – Ross Grief Cycle Model there has been a range of criticism levelled towards this model. Stroebe, Shut and Boerner (2017) explained that there is a lack of empirical research and empirical evidence supporting the stages of grief. Moreover, Kübler-Ross Grief Cycle Model is a product of a particular culture at a particular time and therefore may not be applicable to people of other cultures.

Professor Robert J. Kastenbaum (1988) highlights additional concerns regarding the Kubier – Ross Grief Cycle Model such as there is no evidence that has been presented that people actually do move from Stage 1 through Stage 5, the line is blurred between description and prescription and the resources, pressures, and characteristics of the immediate environment, which can make a tremendous difference, are not taken into account when considering the ways in which people grief.

 Tanya Jordan is an experienced Forensic Social Worker and an Accredited Mental Health Social Worker with T n J’s Consulting and Support Services

This blog has been completed in loving memory of my beautiful furbaby Thomas – May he Rest in Peace

Reference List

Baxter, E. A., & Diehl, S. (1998). Emotional stages: Consumers and family members recovering from the trauma of mental illness. Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal, 21(4), 349-355. Found online 5/11/2017 http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/h0095289

Freeman, J, S. (2004) Grief and Loss: Understanding the Journey Wadsworth Publishing Co Inc Belmont CA, United States

Kastenbaum, R. (1988) Death Society and Human Experience, 6th edition, Boston, Allyn & Bacon

Santrock, J, W. (2007 A Topical Approach to Life-Span Development New York McGraw-Hill

Stroebe, M., Schut, H., and Boerner (2017) Cautioning Health-Care Professionals: Bereaved Persons are Misguided Through Stages of Grief OMEGA – Journal of Death and Dying (2017), Vol 74 (4) 455-473