The 5 stages of the duel (when a loved one dies)

The loss of a loved one is one of the experiences that causes the most psychological pain. However, in these kinds of painful experiences there are nuances, different ways of grieving both emotionally and cognitively.

This idea is that developed by the psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her theory of the 5 stages of mourning, published in 1969 in the book “Of death and agony”. This idea is used to better understand how they feel about people in the grieving phase and how they tend to act.

The Elisabeth Kübler-Ross model

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross was a Swiss-American psychiatrist born in 1926, specializing in palliative care. and in near-death situations. After working for years in contact with terminally ill patients, he developed the famous Kübler-Ross model in which he establishes 5 stages of grief.

Although the name of this theory may seem to indicate otherwise, Kübler-Ross did not come to the conclusion that after the death of a loved one, it goes through five phases which always follow in order, sequentially. .

What this researcher did instead was to define five mental states that act as a benchmark for understanding how the evolution of the afflicted person unfolds, from the moment he knows his loved one is dead until he accepts this news. situation.

This means that not all grieving people have to go through the 5 steps., And that those which cross do not always appear in the same order. However, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross saw these steps as useful as a system of categories to be able to conceptualize in a relatively simple way all the nuances of how grief is handled, a phase which in some cases is “ expressed through emotional lability ”.

The 5 stages of the duel

In summary, the 5 stages of mourning after the death of a loved one are described by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross as follows.

1. Denial stage

Denying the reality that someone is no longer with us because they died allows us to cushion the blow and postpone some of the pain this news is causing us. While this may seem like an unrealistic option, it has its uses for our body as it helps prevent the mood change from being so sudden that it hurts us.

Denial can be explicit or non-explicit, meaning that even though we express ourselves verbally by accepting the information that the loved one has died, in practice we behave as if it were a transitory fiction, that is to say of a role that it is up to us to interpret without believing in it at all.

In other cases, the denial is explicit and the possibility of death is directly denied.

Denial cannot be maintained indefinitely, Because it comes up against the reality that it has not yet been fully accepted, so we ended up leaving this stage.

2. Stage of anger

The anger and resentment that appears at this point is a result of the frustration that comes with knowing that death has occurred and that nothing can be done to either fix or reverse the situation.

Grief produces a deep sadness which we know cannot be relieved by acting on its cause, because death is not reversible. Outraged, death is seen as the result of a decision and therefore the culprits are sought. So, in this phase of crisis what dominates is the upheaval, the shock of two ideas (that life is what is desirable and that death is inevitable) with a very strong emotional charge, so it is easy outbursts of anger.

So, there is a strong feeling of anger projecting in all directions, not being able to find a solution or someone who can be fully responsible for the death.

Even though a part of us knows it is unfair, the anger is directed at people who are not responsible for anything, not even animals and things.

3. Negotiation stage

At this point we are trying to create a fiction that allows us to see death as a possibility that we are able to prevent from happening. In one way or another, offers the fantasy of controlling the situation.

In negotiation, which can take place before or after death, we fantasize about reversing the process and look for strategies to make this possible. For example, it is common to try to negotiate with divine or supernatural entities to prevent death from occurring in exchange for lifestyle change and “reformation.”

Likewise, the pain is relieved by imagining that one has gone back in time and that there is no life threatening. But this step is short because it does not correspond to reality and, moreover, it is exhausting to think of solutions all the time.

4. Depression stage

In the stage of depression (which in itself is not the type of depression considered a mental disorder, but a set of similar symptoms), we stop fantasizing about parallel realities and come back to the present with a deep sense of emptiness because the loved one is no longer there.

Here is a strong sadness which cannot be alleviated by apologies or by the imagination, and which leads us into an existential crisis considering the irreversibility of death and the lack of incentive to continue living in a reality in which l loved one is not there. In other words, we must not only learn to accept that the other person is gone, but also begin to live in a reality which is defined by this absence.

At this point, it is normal for us to isolate ourselves more and to feel more tired, unable to conceive the idea that we are going to come out of this state of sadness and melancholy.

5. Acceptance stage

It is when the death of a loved one is accepted when we learn to continue living in a world where they are no longer there, and it is accepted that this feeling of overcoming is good. Partly, this phase feels like the emotional pain of grief is fading over time, but we also need to actively rearrange the very ideas that make up our mental pattern.

It is not a happy stage unlike the other stages of grief, but is characterized at the beginning rather by a lack of intense feelings and fatigue. Gradually, the ability to feel joy and pleasure returns, and from this situation, things usually return to normal.

A cycle to feel better

As we have seen, grieving can take many forms, which transforms the sense of loss as the way we experience this experience matures. The key lies in how we learn to coexisting with the idea that what we loved will no longer be presentWhether it is a person, an object or a part of our own body.

To overcome these losses, that at first they are usually felt through a feeling of hopelessness and uneaseWe have to come to the assumption that from this point on we will have to live in a different world, in which what we lack is no longer there.

Ultimately, it is possible to come to terms with this reality and move forward while maintaining a balanced and healthy mental health, either by having recourse to psychotherapy, or without having done it, in the event that it was not. necessary. Hardly any fact is terrible enough that we can’t somehow get over it, striving to invest time in it. Empirical evidence shows that in the vast majority of cases, mental recovery occurs after extremely painful events such as the death of a loved one.

Bibliographical references:

  • Abengózar, Mª. C. (1994). How to experience death and mourning. A clinico-evolutionary perspective of adaptation. University of Valencia. Valence.
  • Bayés, R. (2001). Psychology of suffering and death. Martinez Rock editions.
  • Kübler-Ross, E. (1992) Children and Death. Edicions Empúries. Barcelona.
  • Lee, C. (1995) The Death of Loved Ones. Editors of Plaza & Janés. Barcelona.
  • Lenz, AS, Henesy, R .; Callender, K. (2016). Effectiveness of safety research for post-traumatic stress disorder and substance use. Journal of Counseling & Development. 94 (1): 51-61.
  • McLean, CP .; Foa, EB (2011). Prolonged exposure therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder: a review of the evidence and dissemination. Tower. Neurother expert. 11 (8): 1151 – 63.
  • McRitchie, R., McKenzie, K., Quayle, E., Harlin, M., Neumann, K. (2014). How Adults with Developmental Disabilities Experience Grieving and Grief: A Qualitative Exploration. Death Studies, 38 (3), 179-185.
  • Miles, J .; Bailey-McKenna, MC (2017). Give refugee students a huge advantage: the LEAD program. TESL Canada Magazine. 33: 109 to 128.

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