Are the Five Stages of Grief Correct?

When you lose a loved one, you hear a lot about the stages of grief. You know, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. We’ve all heard of them; they’ve been ingrained in our heads forever. But what f they aren’t correct? Do you know where they originated? We do! Take a look!

Where Did the 5 Stages Originate?

Introduced in the 1969 book titled On Death and Dying by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, she shares her opinion that there are multiple stages of emotions that a patient goes through when they are diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, starting with denial and ending with acceptance.

You read that right! The five stages of grief weren’t derived from losing a loved one but rather from being diagnosed with a terminal illness!

This model has been seriously misrepresented throughout the last few decades, and it’s essential to realize that from its inception, the Kübler-Ross model of grief was not based on systematic investigations. It is basically a collection of interviews with dying patients.

Who knew??

Why Do We Hold on to These Stages?

We are pattern-seeking, storytelling individuals trying to navigate an often unpredictable and chaotic world. The Kübler-Ross model reminds us that our emotions aren’t permanent. It guides us through a trying time and reminds us that, eventually, we will reach acceptance and be OK.

Assuming your experience aligns well with the five stages of grief, you’re reassured that you are managing your grief in the “right” way and doing well. But that’s precisely the problem.

Description or Prescription?

The five stages model was meant to be descriptive but has become prescriptive. Bereaved individuals can feel like there are specific feelings they should be having and that they are somehow grieving incorrectly by not having them. No set pattern of emotions one must experience to come to terms with death.

When comparing their experiences to a non-evidence-based, not-even-meant-to-describe-their-experiences model, serious harm can be done to bereaved individuals.

The Realization

Grief takes on many forms, is experienced in countless ways, and cannot possibly be explained by a simple five-stage model. When we push this model as comprehensive for everyone, we separate those that it doesn’t apply and only cause more pain in an already difficult time.

There is no one way to grieve. We hope that when you’re struggling with grief, you can find comfort in knowing that how you feel is just fine.