The “Five Stages” of Grief Don’t Tell The Whole Story of Dealing With Loss by Nick Haslam
Based on my personal experience with grief, and talking with others (and I’ve been toying with doing a blog post about this eventually), most Christians are inept or out and out insensitive in ministering to people in grief.
And by being insensitive, I don’t mean to say it’s not always the judgmental things Christians say to those in mourning, but the fact that some of them avoid the one in grief altogether.
Many Christians would rather not spend time with meeting the emotional needs of the person in grief, because, dang nab it, that would actually require putting someone else’s needs before their own, which in turn, means giving that person your time.
And Christians I know don’t want to do that – they just pat you on your head, feed you a Jesus-sounding platitude, and push you out the door, all so they can go back to their comfy recliner and continue watching NetFlix. They cannot be bothered with actually being there for the wounded. But maybe more on that in a future post, if I can get around to it. For now, there’s this….
Grief can seem desolate for those in the thick of it who often feel unable to imagine a way out of their suffering. But, as time passes, the pain usually dampens or becomes more fleeting.
Understanding the normal trajectory of grief matters for the person experiencing the grief and those treating them. Attempts to provide a map of the bereavement process have typically proposed a sequence of stages. The “five stages” model is the best known, with the stages being denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
While there is some evidence for these stages, the experience of grief is highly individualized and not well captured by their fixed sequence.
Some of the five stages may be absent, their order may be jumbled, certain experiences may rise to prominence more than once, and the progression of stages may stall. The age of the bereaved person and the cause of death may also shape the grief process.
…However, it’s Swiss-American psychiatristElisabeth Kübler-Ross’s model coined in 1969 that has become the most widely known. Her five stages of grief—originally developed to map patient responses to terminal illness—have become famous.
They have been applied not only to responses to death but also to a variety of other losses.
Kübler-Ross’s first stage, denial, resembles what Bowlby and Parkes labelled numbness and shock, but her second, anger, departs from their scheme.
…Problems with the stage model
Although the sequence of peaks matched Kübler-Ross’s model, some aspects of this research also challenged it.
First, although disbelief was at its highest immediately after the loss, it was always less prominent than acceptance. Acceptance is not a late stage of resolution for people who are grieving, but an experience that prevails from the start and continues to grow.
Second, yearning was the most prominent negative experience, despite being omitted from the most well-known version of Kübler-Ross’s five stages. This points to the limitations of framing grief in the clinical terms of depression, which study participants experienced less frequently than longing.
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