If you’re not familiar with Dr. Kubler-Ross, she is the one we credit with creating “The Stages of Loss” model of grieving. OK, so perhaps I’m being a bit dramatic with my heading for the sake of getting your attention. She WAS instrumental in helping society to begin talking about death. As a psychiatrist who interviewed people in the 1960s and 70s who were in the dying process, she concluded that there were five stages of loss. The Stages are so much a part of our vernacular that we hear about them in movies, the media and even from physicians and mental health professionals. The problem is that the existence of these stages has not been demonstrated over time. In addition, there were limitations to her methodology. We do have her to thank for beginning the conversation about death and dying as these are taboo topics even today. The stages do have some validity in that people who are in mourning experience many of them, but certainly not in a tight sequential order. Unfortunately, it’s a lot messier than that.
The grief work being done now focuses on tasks, not stages. One of the accepted models is J. William Worden’s four tasks. Task !: To Accept the Reality of the Loss, Task 2: To Process the Pain of Grief, Task 3: To Adjust to the World Without the Deceased, Task 4: To Find an Enduring Connection With the Deceased in the Midst of Embarking on a New Life.
I’m on a mission to dispel the myths of The Stages and educate people who are grieving about what is normal grief. Anyone who has experienced significant loss knows that mourning is not so neat and tidy as we are led to believe.