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What are the stages of grief?

Q & A by Bereavement Counselor Marty Tousley 

Question: I was wondering if you could list the stages of grief for me as I am trying to help a friend who recently lost her mother. 

Answer: How good of you to be the sort of friend who wants to "be there" in a positive way for your friend who is mourning the loss of her mother. You've asked about the so-called stages of grief. What you may be thinking of are the stages of dying originally described by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in her still popular book, On Death and Dying. Since that book was first published (in 1969), many people have taken her findings much too literally, expecting the dying process to occur in neatly ordered stages, one following the other. 

The stages of dying originally described by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross are:
1) Denial and Isolation
2) Anger
3) Depression
4) Bargaining
5) Acceptance

As wonderful as her groundbreaking work in death and dying was, her "stages" model was never meant to apply to those who are in mourning. Her studies were focused on patients who were terminally ill and dying. That is a common mistake you will find repeatedly in the literature still today. But there has been a wealth of research done since Kubler-Ross' pioneering work that focuses specifically on bereavement, loss and grief. 

What your friend needs to know is that grief is the normal response to the death of a loved one, and it doesn't happen in neatly ordered "stages" as such. 

Most of us who specialize in grief counseling prefer to think of grief as the personal experience of the loss, and mourning as a process (not a single event) that can affect us in every dimension of our lives: physical, emotional, social, spiritual and financial. 

Everyone's grief journey is unique, and there is no specific time-frame for it. Although grief is different for each individual, finding a way through it successfully requires some knowledge and understanding of the grief experience and the work of mourning. 

Because your friend is engaged in ongoing discussions with you about the death of her mother, you can help her by encouraging her to read what others have written about grief. Arming her with a better understanding of grief prepares her for whatever feelings and experiences she can normally expect, validates her responses, and enables her to face more readily whatever lies ahead. It also offers her the hope that if others have made it through this difficult experience of losing their mothers, then so can she. 


Wishing you Peace and Healing,
Marty Tousley, Bereavement Counselor

 

 

 

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Marty Tousley, MS, RN, CS is a content provider for Self Healing Expressions. She is a hospice bereavement counselor helping people find their way through grief following the death of a loved one. As a volunteer with the Pet Grief Support Service in Phoenix, AZ, she also works with bereaved animal lovers, both individually and in groups, and consults with veterinary clinics to foster greater understanding of pet loss among staff members, thereby building better helping relationships with grieving clients.

A frequent contributor to healthcare journals, newsletters and magazines for the lay public, she has written several articles and book chapters in the professional nursing and medical literature, and has authored three books addressing various aspects of loss and grief. Her award-winning Internet Web site, www.GriefHealing.com offers information, comfort and support to anyone who is anticipating or mourning the loss of a loved one, whether human or animal.

Copyright 2003, 2004 Marty Tousley. All rights reserved. If you wish to publish this article, please email contact@selfhealingexpressions.com

 

 




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