The 5 Stages are a Myth

What You Must Know About Grief Series: Part #5

The 5 Stages of Grief” are a myth.

In 1969, Swiss-American psychiatrist Elizabeth Kubler-Ross—with the publishing of her book, On Death and Dying—established what’s now known as “the 5 stages of grief.”
Today, “the 5 stages” are ingrained in our collective psyche.

When we lose someone, we must prepare a bumpy ride through…

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance

The problem here?
The research data Kubler-Ross examined wasn’t collected from those grieving the loss of a loved one.
Instead, it pertained to the emotional journey of those diagnosed with a terminal illness of their own.
Big difference, ya know?
So, let’s examine why the 5-stages are a rather absurd model for grief.
You’re grieving, correct? That’s why you’re here.
This means, you’re not denying the death…or the situation.
Enough said.
Not everyone experiences anger during bereavement. I know I rarely do.
In fact, as I write this, I’m two weeks into a grief cycle of my own, after the death of my beloved puggle, Moose. Sure, I feel a boatload of heartache. But I experience no anger whatsoever.
Nor will I ever while grieving him.
Although anger can be involved with the grief over a loved one—due to a tragic death or a strained relationship or the “no last word” circumstances often associated with sudden death—
Anger is not a mandatory component of grief.
In fact, more times than not, anger is nowhere to be found with grief.
This “stage” is defined as a defense mechanism against feelings of helplessness when people struggle to accept the “reality of the loss.”
As we state in the Acceptance portion down below…
You obviously don’t have any issue “accepting” your loss if you’re here…looking to heal your grief.
Thus, there’s no need for you to partake in “bargaining” of any sort.
Make sense?
One challenging issue regarding grief healing is that many of its symptoms mimic those of depression.
Meaning, it’s oftentimes approached, by a therapist, as depression.
Yet, grief is its own, unique emotional state.
That’s right: it’s an emotional state.
Grief is not a frame of mind. It’s not a series of steps.
And it isn’t a journey through some collection of intellectual stages.
It’s a unique emotional state.
And, as you can imagine, when it’s treated from an intellectual angle…
Or, treated like depression…
It’s not really being “treated” at all.
Obviously, you already accept the situation.
If you didn’t, you wouldn’t be grieving.
Get it?
Acceptance is not the same as recovery or healing.
It’s simply acceptance.
It’s Time to Let the “5 Stages” Die
The biggest issue with the 5-stage model?
It hinders your actual recovery by keeping you confined by, and stuck in, sticky & fallacy-riddled cliche.
In truth, there are no stages of grief; all grief is unique.
However, people often try to fit themselves into a defined category, if one is offered to them. Unfortunately, this is particularly true if that category is supplied by a powerful authority figure, such as a therapist, doctor, or clergy person.
What does research say about the 5-stage model?

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