Understanding the grief and dying process is essential in providing the necessary support for overcoming the death of a loved one. According to Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, the five stages that both terminally ill patients and relatives of the deceased follow sequentially constitute denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance (Bregman, 2019). While the stages might seem atypical, they provide a heuristic pattern associated with the behavior and thought of the relatives and terminally ill patients. Therefore, healthcare facilities with knowledge of the five-stage patterns have an informed yet uncompromising approach they can apply when providing comprehension and empathy to their patients, family members, and members (Clarke, 2021). However, Kubler-Ross’s understanding of the grieving and the dying process should not be interpreted as natural law.
Denial: this initial stage of the process protects an individual from the difficulties associated with the disturbing reality and helps minimize the devastating pain of the loss. As to Bregman (2019), people would repeatedly discard new information on death or health condition. The stage in the process is expected; however, insistent denial may be harmful to the relatives of the deceased (Pravin et al., 2019). Therefore, a direct and transparent approach must be employed in sharing information since it is significant in how people process complex data. However, denial is not an attempt to falsify that life does not exist; instead, it is a way of absorbing and comprehending the event of death.
Anger: once a loved one has passed on, it is a common experience to be angry after death. Friends and family of the deceased are trying to adjust to the hard reality that life has ended, and the adjustment comes with extreme emotional distress (Clarke, 2021). In truth, there is so much going on, and anger feels like it is allowing people to have an emotional outlet. Anger tends to be the first thing people think when releasing loss-related emotions. It might leave individuals isolated in their perception and experience, making them unapproachable when reassurance, connection, and comfort are beneficial.
Bargaining comes as a natural thing when trying to minimize or alleviate pain associated with the death of a loved one. The loss of a loved one often makes people contemplate what they could have done to change the event resulting at the end of the anticipated pain from a loss (Bregman, 2019). Bargain occurs in different forms, and when it starts, people direct their requests to a higher power or something with the ability to influence the desired outcome (Pravin et al., 2019). Often, people recall moments they said things they never meant to while wishing to go back in time to change specific encounters.
Depression: at this stage, people’s imaginations begin to come down, and they start to look at the reality of what has come to pass from a different perspective. Once the emotional fog begins to clear, the loss feels unavoidable and more present (Clarke, 2021). When sadness grows, people start to pull inwards and find themselves being less sociable, retreating and reaching out less to others over what has happened (Bregman, 2019). However, this form of depression might be incredibly isolating when dealing with the loss of a loved one.
Acceptance: once the reality has dawned, people no longer feel the loss-related pain. Nonetheless, they still resist the truth of what has happened but no longer struggle to make things different. While regret and sadness still linger, the tactics to survive the loss associated with the first four stages are less likely to manifest (Bregman, 2019). A different tactic has more to do with anticipating relatives’ experiences and less to do with the promotion of a fixed progression resulting in more support and empathy.
Bregman L. (2019). Kübler-Ross and the re-visioning of death as loss: Religious appropriation and responses. J Pastoral Care Counsel, 73(1):4-8.
Clarke, J. (2021). The five stages of grief: Learning about emotions after loss can help us heal. Web.
Pravin, R, R., Enrica, T, E. K., & Moy, T. A. (2019). The portrait of a dying child. Indian J Palliat Care, 25(1):156-160.