Stages of grief

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross was a doctor in Switzerland who in the 1960’s discovered that our reaction to bad news followed a particular pattern/cycle, referred to today as the Kübler-Ross model. She initially was inspired from her work with terminally ill patients, but the model can somewhat be adopted to anyone experiencing any form of grief, such as being diagnosed with a chronic health condition. 

It is perfectly normal to experience these stages, and people may experience different phases at different times. This is not set in stone as everyone copes differently with grief, but it may be helpful to some to relate it to their journey.

At first, there is a moment of shock which then may lead to a state of denial. You don’t want to believe you’re unwell and this change is happening. You may feel your diagnosis is wrong or that the doctors are missing something. You may get stuck in this phase, constantly looking for other possible reasons. It may lead to going from one doctor to another and having test after test, and you never feel able to move forward.

The next stage can be anger. Why me? Why now? What did I do to deserve this? It is perfectly natural to feel angry at the unfairness of it all, but it is very important not to let the anger take over. You may feel anger towards loved ones because they are not in your shoes to understand. You may feel angry at being let down by the doctors you put your trust in to help you.

Next may come bargaining. You want to get back what you have lost and may think things like if you just keep pushing you will get better, or if you ignore it, it will go away. You just want to find a way out of the situation you don’t have control of.

You may then move on to depression when you realise that actually the doctors were right and its not going to go away any time soon. You may feel that there is no point in even trying, or feel a burden to those close to you. It is easy to get stuck in this phase and feel hopeless. You may just need a caring hand to guide you, and be among others who understand. You are not alone. 

Sooner or later you will see that you need to start moving forward with your life in the best way possible. It is at this point that you may start looking at what you can do to help yourself and start seeing the good in your life, instead of the bad controlling it.

That in essence is acceptance. This is when you accept and understand your diagnosis and are ready to find ways to help you cope better. You no longer feel angry, and give up on bargaining as you have a new way of life to plan. You start to see that light at the end of the tunnel and begin working towards making your life as good as possible.

(Credit to the Elisabeth Kübler-Ross Foundation)

To endure the grief can soften the pain.


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