The Kübler-Ross model, or the five stages of grief, suggests a series of emotions experienced by survivors of an intimate’s death. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance are a part of the framework that makes up our learning to live with the one we lost. These are a collation of five common experiences for the bereaved that can occur in any order, if at all. They are tools to help us frame and identify what we may be feeling. But they are not stops on some linear timeline in grief.
We have all experienced different sorts of grievances, and even have different definitions as to what grief means to us. Whether I show it in my daily actions or not, I am incredibly sensitive. Not sensitive in the “everyone is being mean to me so I’m going to throw a hissy fit and pout whoa-is-me, eye-for-an-eye” sort of way. I am more along the lines of a, “everyone is being mean to me, to each other, and to this earth and I can not take the careless, selfish, negative energy any longer so I’m going to take a step back from everyone and heal my own energies”. Even the smallest of slights can disturb me greatly enough to throw my energy completely off balance for as short as a brief second or a long as several days. I have always felt that these five stages can be applied to any type of grief, not just in the event of a loss due to death. I added my own personal grieving thought process below in parenthesis as a further example.
The Five Stages of Grief (The Kübler-Ross Model)
Denial: In this stage individuals believe the diagnosis is somehow mistaken, and cling to a false, preferable reality. (Personal denial that people could even treat me so cruelly and disrespectfully in the first place, there must have been a miscommunication somewhere along the line. It Must be a mistake.)
Anger: When we recognize that denial cannot continue and something must give, we can become frustrated, especially at the people closest to us. Certain psychological responses of a person undergoing this phase would be: “Why me? It’s not fair!”; “How can this happen to me?”; ‘”Who is to blame?”; “Why would this happen?” Anger is usually coupled with blame because it is in our nature to sort out the Why behind our life happenings. (Anger that people could be so carelessly cruel at times without any regard to how their actions are affecting others. How do you sleep at night knowing what you did? How do I keep this anger from leeching into everything else in my life at this very moment? And Dammit how dare anything anger me to this extent in the first place, I thought I was better than that, stronger than that!)
Bargaining: Involves the hope that the individual can avoid a cause of grief. Usually, the negotiation is made in exchange for a reformed lifestyle. People facing less serious trauma can bargain or seek compromise.(Bargaining with myself that if maybe I changed my actions then I will be treated differently. Treated with more compassion and respect, maybe, hopefully, possibly. That’s it, I’ll change, because obviously somehow this was my fault so it is my responsibility to fix it.)
Depression: The individual despairs at the recognition of their mortality. In this state, the individual may become silent, refuse visitors and spend much of the time mournful and sullen. (Although I despise the word Depression, I will leave it so; Depression at the knowledge that some people just aren’t compassionate by nature and have to be told how to be nice and help others. Depression at having to explain myself, depression that the people who say they care don’t care enough to remember what I need when I need it. It saddens me greatly that I have not found more people that live by what they say when it comes to compassion and understanding.)
Acceptance: “It’s going to be okay.” “I can’t fight it, I may as well prepare for it.” In this final stage, individuals embrace mortality or inevitable futures. Acceptance typically comes with a calm, retrospective view for the situation, and a stable condition of emotions. ( I can accept that this life is what it is and people are who they are. I can not change others, or this entire world, but I can control my own actions and how I live by example. I can always trust the peace and happiness that I have created inside of me.)
One of the most common concerns I hear from grieving folks (myself included) is that too many people just don’t seem to know what to say to them, and end up either making inappropriate remarks or avoiding them altogether. This can result in the griever feeling further isolated and unsupported. Whether it is the loss of a loved one, a small tiff with a friend, or the rude actions of a stranger that triggers the feelings inside of you, grief is grief and no one should have to validate their feelings for the comfort of others around them. Fortunately talking to grieving people does not have to be as complicated or confusing as people seem to think. Refer back to one of my later blog posts that I wrote about The Art of Communicating Through Grief for more details on exactly just how to help someone through any difficult situation they may be experiencing.
I have come to realize that you can not always expect compassion and understanding from others if you do not practice it first in your own home and heart. There were a series of small incidents that happened to me in a row that triggered my latest bout of Grief Hibernation. Each slight was individually small enough to look past, but combined together I felt personally attacked in every way possible to the point where I called a Life Time Out so that I could heal. Part of what helped bump me back on track was writing my feelings out on paper so I could better sort the thoughts in my head. I took time with myself to purge my negative thoughts, realign my chakras, sweat it out, and think about everything But what had triggered my original upset. When I started to feel “normal” again and the residual bitterness faded I was able to write objectively so that I could share my thoughts openly. When I grieve, I retreat to heal myself, so that I can be strong enough to help heal others later, but my goal and intent is to one day be able to feel comfortable with my grief while having a proper support system available to me so that I do not feel so alone in my journey. I yearn for compassionate understanding without explanation, kind words without being prompted, strength from my loved ones, and silent hugs without having to request them. I don’t know how it is for others, but when I am upset a part of me feels like I am 6yrs old again and craving my parents comfort or something comparable. I am human, I falter in my own practices from time to time, but one day I hope to become a better Griever.