In this section I will look at how the work of Dr Elisabeth Kübler-Ross changed how we look at the grieving process.
Dr Kübler-Ross, who pioneered methods in the support and counselling of personal trauma, grief and grieving, proposed a model of the five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance). This is actually a model for change generally and as such can help people to understand and deal with personal reaction to trauma. It is not limited to death and dying.
Her book, On Death and Dying (1969) was quite revolutionary at the time and was a catalyst towards changing previously held beliefs that bereavement should not be discussed and that death is a taboo subject. This was very gratefully received by carers and by people who were dying or who had been bereaved, perhaps indicating the level of denial and suppression that had existed previously. Dr Kübler-Ross gave people ‘permission’ to feel their feelings and to talk about them openly, perhaps for the first time.
The ‘Grief Cycle’ was never intended to be a rigid series of sequential or uniformly timed steps. It’s a model or a framework rather than a process. A model is less specific – more of a shape or guide. People do not always experience all of the five ‘grief cycle’ stages. Some stages might be revisited. Some stages might not be experienced at all. Transition between stages can be more of an ebb and flow, rather than a progression. The five stages are not linear; neither are they equal in their experience. People’s grief, and other reactions to emotional trauma, are as individual as a fingerprint.