Elisabeth Kübler-Ross (July 8, 1926 – August 24, 2004) was a Swiss-American psychiatrist, a pioneer in near-death studies, and the author of the groundbreaking book On Death and Dying (1969), where she first discussed her theory of the five stages of grief, also known as the “Kübler-Ross model“.
A 2007 inductee into the National Women’s Hall of Fame. She was the recipient of nineteen honorary degrees and by July 1982 had taught, in her estimation, 125,000 students in death and dying courses in colleges, seminaries, medical schools, hospitals, and social-work institutions. In 1970, she delivered an Ingersoll Lecture at Harvard University on the theme On Death and Dying.
The five stages of grief are, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. These make up the framework of the emotions we go through when we are learning how to live without our pet.
But there are some misconceptions about the five stages of grief.
MISCONCEPTION #1 “The Five Stages of Grief will happen one right after the other.”
False – Grief is as unique as our fingerprints, and so is the way the stages occur in our lives.
MISCONCEPTION #2 “People think that they must go through all five of the stages.”
False – Some people never go through the anger stage. Some people are never in denial. Some never find acceptance.
MISCONCEPTION #3 “The five stages will only occur once.”
False – We can go through any of these five stages multiple times. We may begin a grieving stage when we anticipate a future event involving our pet, like having to put her or her to sleep. We will no doubt experience the grief stages when our pet dies. And we will continue to go through the different stages in the days following the death of our pet.
MISCONCEPTION #4 “We must follow the five stages.”
False – The stages reflect where we are. What makes Elizabeth Kübler Ross model of grief so amazing is that she didn’t create something, instead she identified something that naturally occurs in our behavior after loss and change. And it still stands true today.
MISCONCEPTION #5 “You must experience these emotions exactly as they are stated.”
False –The stages are general emotions that contain many other emotions. For example, Denial also contains shock. Anger contains rage, bitterness, and annoyance. Bargaining is the “if only’s” and the “what-if’s.” Depression contains sadness, despair, emptiness and yearning. Acceptance just means you acknowledge the reality of the loss. It does not mean you’re okay with it or you like it.
Please remember that these stages are responses that many people experience. But at the same time there is no such thing as a typical response to loss, because there is no typical loss. Every loss will be experienced individually and uniquely, and no two people will grieve the same way.
My hope is that by understanding these stages a little bit better, you will understand the emotions that you are experiencing so that you are better able to cope with the loss of you adored pet.
Often, people in grief will report more stages other than the ones listed above; just remember grief is unique–as unique as you are.