The Stages of Grief Are Outdated

stages of grief are outdated

Most people are familiar with the five stages of grief originally described by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her 1969 book On Death and Dying. These stages – denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance – have become almost prescriptive in how we perceive and understand the grieving process. However, over time, professionals and bereaved people alike have started to question this framework’s validity and universality.

Reevaluating the Five Stages of Grief

The genesis of the Kübler-Ross model is not as scientific or broad-ranging as you might assume. Rather than stemming from empirical studies, it primarily results from a collection of case studies derived from interactions with terminally ill patients. Kübler-Ross cataloged these people’s experiences and emotional trajectories, which she eventually distilled into the well-known five stages.

There’s no denying that having a structure to lean on can be comforting in moments of profound grief and confusion. The Kübler-Ross model offers a semblance of predictability in the arbitrary realm of human emotions. It hints at a light at the end of the tunnel, suggesting that the pain will lessen as you accept your loss. For those whose grieving process mirrors this path, it can indeed be a reassuring roadmap. However, the model falters in its inherent suggestion of a “one-size-fits-all” approach to the grieving process.

Moving Forward: Embracing Your Unique Grieving Process

By its very nature, grief is a profoundly personal and varied experience. Some people may feel intense anger or shame, while others may not. You might skip some of the defined stages or experience complicated grief, which puts acceptance out of reach for a prolonged period.

When societal norms dictate a “correct” way to grieve based on the Kübler-Ross model, it can inadvertently add guilt or confusion to an already painful process. People may start doubting their feelings, wondering if there’s something inherently wrong with their coping mechanisms.

While a stage theory of grief can provide much-needed guidance and context, it shouldn’t be a definitive yardstick. Grief is unique, and each person’s journey through it will vary. Instead of seeking conformity, it’s more beneficial to seek support, compassion and space for whatever you are going through.

Healing With Pine Grove’s Expertise

At Pine Grove, we believe in honoring and understanding each person’s unique grieving process. While the Kübler-Ross model has historical and cultural significance, we advocate for a more open, empathetic approach to grief – one that honors individual experiences and feelings rather than fitting them into predetermined stages.

We have gained a reputation as one of the nation’s most comprehensive CARF-accredited treatment campuses – drawing on cross-disciplinary expertise and multiple programs to effectively address life’s complexities. If you would benefit from our approach to mental and behavioral health, please connect with us today.

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