Elisabeth Kubler-Ross was a 20th century psychiatrist who pioneered the study of grief and developed a stage-based model that outlined the feelings dying people experience.
CONTRIBUTION TO PSYCHOLOGY
In the book On Death and Dying, Kubler-Ross identified five specific stages of grief that individuals experience as they face death. The five stages are:
- Denial: A temporary defense mechanism, denial is often the earliest stage of grief and involves feelings that “this can’t possibly be happening to me.”
- Anger: A dying person questions why he or she is facing death. The person might look for a source of blame, or simply become angry with the world.
- Bargaining: During this stage, people try to find ways to buy themselves more time. They might, for example, start bargaining with God or attempt to institute a healthier lifestyle.
- Depression: As a dying person begins to accept fate, overwhelming depression, sadness, or hopelessness may kick in.
- Acceptance: At this stage, a dying person accepts the inevitability of death, finding some peace in this acceptance. Acceptance does not, however, mean that a person wants to die or is happy about dying, and grief may linger.
Although her original intent was to offer these strategies as a coping map for those dealing with death, Kubler-Ross’s later work extended these stages to individuals suffering any major loss, including that of health, freedom, job, marriage, or the death of a loved one. In addition, she acknowledged that while most people go through at least two of the five stages of grief, not all people experience them in the same order. For example, a dying person might experience anger or bargaining before he or she enters denial.
She noted that many people will continue to struggle with one or more of the stages for many years; some may even wander in and out of stages throughout the remainder of their lives, depending on the severity of their loss. On Death and Dying has become one of the most widely accepted tools for helping individuals regain their lives in the aftermath of a traumatic loss.