Monday, 22 October 2012

The 5 Stages of Grief

The problems I have with stuff written on grieving is that its either magic faries in the garden, inadequate religious mumbo or clinical stuff written for the academic realm to be read by people who have perhaps never had the emotion on their own.

The major accepted literature that psychologists attempt to stuff down your neck is based on the works of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross.

Elisabeth proposes there are Five Stages of Grief:
  •  denial, 
  •  anger, 
  •  bargaining, 
  •  depression, and 
  •  acceptance
in no defined sequence.

It goes on to suggest that there is no defined sequence and that most of these stages occur when a person is faced with the reality of their impending death and applies to survivors of a loved one's death as well.


Well my problems with this are:
Problem number 1: stages which aren't stages?
we have something which includes stages, yet there is no defined sequence? Worse its not meant to be complete AND everyone experiences things uniquely? So what are you trying to say here?
Kübler-Ross noted that these stages are not meant to be complete nor chronological. Her hypothesis also holds that not everyone who experiences a life-threatening or life-altering event feels all five of the responses nor will everyone who does experience them do so in any particular order.
So its about as unclear as you can get. Only some one who is a psychology student would really get this.

Problem number 2: its not about grief, its about something else.
So its not fundamentally about grieving, because that is what people do after someone is dead (perhaps a dictionary could have been used?).
.. occur when a person is faced with the reality of their impending death ...
So this work is about how people come to grips with their own mortality, which is not what I am facing right now.

If you haven't already found it, a reasonable analysis of the theory can be found here. I won't go into it further but save to say that the clinicality of it makes it nothing that I can relate to as a person who is grieving the death of my wife. For me grieving is part of the emotional responses which come from the death of someone you love.

Importantly I notice that love doesn't even enter into the analysis above. Grief without love is nothing more than loss (which perhaps explains the resilience theory mentioned soon).  I believe that it is the depth and nature of love which defines the depth and nature of the grieving.

My personal situation was such that there could be no possiblity of denial. I saw her body, and touche her body, but even before that I had no doubt that people were fooling me or tricking me. I know she had died.

I certainly felt something akin to depression, but to label it as depression is something dangerous, because I believe it's quite different. I don't want some doctor giving me medication to 'cope' with this, its not a mental illness, its an expectable outcome. My wife meant a lot to me and so its entirely expectable that I would feel like shit. What robot wouldn't understand that?

Anger is something I've felt a little bit, but logically who to direct that at? (perhaps psychologists without a clue?) No one is to blame for this, well except God, but then does God exist? Can you get angry at something that doesn't exist? I could start on "everything happens for a reason" and the "free to choose" bullshit, but save to say if you can figure out a reason why she died please drop me a line, and if you also believe that "she was free to choose" then perhaps don't.

So for me there is there is no heart in the 5 stages, but it gets a bit worse.

One of the academic criticisms suggests that there is no grief, only resilienceOh really? I suggest to the author that he stops reviewing papers and goes and experiences something. Perhaps George Bonanno only interviewed people who were "holding it all in" but that's not healthy and ignores the aspect of feelings.

So this is to further explain what I meant in my first post on why I am writing this. I'm writing this for me to put down my thoughts and feelings as well as for anyone else who comes along later and finds it more helpful than the other stuff out there.

Stay strong if you can, and don't feel bad about the occasional collapse.

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