Why The 5 Stages Of Grief Might Not Work For You
Why The 5 Stages Of Grief Might Not Work For You

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Hint, It Was Never Meant To

The most well-known psychology-based model in the grief-recovery world is the Kuebler-Ross “Five Stages of Grief.” This model, introduced in the 1969 book On Death and Dying by noted Swiss-American psychiatrist Dr. Elisabeth Kuebler-Ross, presents a concept that is linear in nature.
The model states that a survivor progresses through 5 emotional stages: (1) denial, (2) anger, (3) bargaining, (4) depression, and (5) acceptance. Linear progression models like this represent the healing experience as a series of emotional response steps that we will go through when confronted with loss. The model essentially suggests you will first feel this, and then you will feel this, and finally you’ll feel this. As you progress, you are supposed process the emotion associated with that step, get past it, and address the next until you have successfully completed the progression and are finally healed. The problem is, neither I nor any of the people I have interviewed or talked to have found the process to work like that.

The problem with the 5 Stages of Grief is that no one seems to actually process grief that way.

When I was first introduced to the five stages of grief in my personal grief-recovery process, I learned that this model is filled with caveats. Simply put, most current psychology theory acknowledges that it doesn’t work the same way for most (if any) people. In fact, contrary to popular belief, the five stages weren’t even developed for people going through the grieving process; they were developed for people who were terminally ill as a way to come to terms with their impending death. It was only later retrofitted and applied to others who were left in the wake of a loved one’s death.

I Believe We Need A Better Model

We need a model that allows for and embraces our different faith stories, personalities, temperaments, and backstories? The answer is to set aside the notion of a linear progression of singular emotional responses that are checked off in sequence.

In contrast to a linear model, the Survive-Alive-Thrive model is designed to reimagine our loss-to-hope-to-happiness journey as a series of interconnected circles emanating from a central point of impact.

If you or someone you love has been impacted by loss & brokenness, I encourage you to dig deeper into each of the 3 stages of the model to better understand and connect with your personal experience. Insights related to navigating your journey through Survive-Alive-Thrive are shared and explored in greater detail in both my book and across this website.

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