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The Grieving Myth: 5 Steps to Healing

I’ve been thinking about Grief a lot lately. Grief, or the “strong, sometimes overwhelming emotion for people... [which] stems from the loss of a loved one or from a terminal diagnosis they or someone they love have received.” As I mentioned in my post on Vulnerability, many mental health professionals notice themes in their work in a certain amount of time. Right now, that theme is Grief, Loss, and Ambiguous Loss. This blog post is one of a three-part entry on Grief and Loss. Today I’ll discuss the commonly known Five Stages of Grief model.

The Myth of the Five Stages of Grief

When we think of Grief we tend to think of the sadness and emptiness that a person feels after the death of a loved one. Anyone who has taken a Psychology 101 class will be at least vaguely familiar with the Five Stages of Grief model proposed by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her 1969 book “On Death and Dying.” These stages are commonly remembered by the acronym DABDA (Denial & Isolation, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance).

These stages are NOT meant to be experienced in a particular order, which is a detail most people don’t know about. In fact, most people don’t understand how the Five Stages are meant to be used. For example:

Unfortunately, like Michael Scott of Dunder Mifflin, many people don’t know the context in which the Five Stages model was created. Kübler-Ross was studying people with terminal illnesses. That is, the Five Stages of Grief model was developed for people who had learned they were going to die; not that someone they loved had died. This model is a classic example of why it is important to know the research behind mental health models.

The good news is that the Five Stages model does help people identify their current experience, understand that there is more than one response to Grief, and feel somewhat normalized in their experiences. The bad news is that often people are pressured into grieving “the right way,” which does not work for everybody. I tell all of my clients experiencing Grief that if someone tries to tell them they aren’t grieving the “right way,” that they should tell that person their therapist says to shut up.

Question: How Should I Be Grieving?

Answer: However it works for you. The important thing to be aware of is if Grief is taking over your life. If Grief is keeping you from going to work or school, being present with your friends and family, or otherwise impairing your ability to function, it is time to find help managing Grief. Grief operates very similar to other problems like Depression and Anxiety in that it never goes away completely, but we can set boundaries with it.

Part Two of this series on Grief and Loss covers Ambiguous Loss – a term for when we are grieving someone who is not gone physically and psychologically, but one or the other.

Part Three covers some of the strategies of Grief and Loss – be it Ambiguous or otherwise. This final portion will share some of the techniques that have worked for my clients who are experiencing grief.

If you want to get started in working on standing up to Grief now, call me to set up a free consultation and get started at 720-507-4234.

The posts provided here are intended to provide psychoeducation, resources, and support for current clients, potential clients, or anyone seeking information about mental health. These posts are not a suitable replacement for mental health services including medication, therapy, counseling, or crisis managment. If you are seeking help for any mental health or relationship struggle, please contact a mental health professional you trust.

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