Anyone who has experienced a loss is probably familiar with the Five Stages of Grief. Those famous stages-- Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance --came from the work of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross in 1969, in her book Death and Dying. At the time, no one was talking about grief and death, and although Kubler-Ross's work was on terminally ill patients, it was quickly extended to people coping with other people's deaths, not just their own.
New research, using much more stringent methods, has begun to shed light on the actual experience of grief. In a recent article, Time Magazine explored some of the myths that all this research has debunked in the 21st century. The entire article is worth a read, but I wanted to share a number of takeaway bits of information and a few quotes that I think will resonate with my readers.
- In a 2007 study out of Yale University, participants described their feelings as more "yearning" for their lost loved ones than "anger" or "depression" over their absence.
- In a 2003 report from the Center for Advancing Health, psychologist Janice Genevro described grief as "grief is not a series of steps that ultimately deposit us at a psychological finish line but rather a grab bag of symptoms that come and go and, eventually, simply lift."
- In contrast to the conventional wisdom, several studies have found that NOT expressing negative feelings about loss may have a protective benefit for people in the long term.
- In general, women have higher rates of depression, but when it comes to grief, the experience may be harder on men than women.
- Most people have returned to essentially normal functioning 6 months after the death of a loved one.
- In an effort to make death and grieving more comfortable topics in our culture, we may have become even more rigid in our ideas about what grieving should look like. If someone doesn't fit into the Kubler-Ross model, he or she could be viewed as "cold" or "unfeeling," when she could be coping in a very healthy, acceptable way.
Certainly this site has made use of the Kubler-Ross model in other articles, though I have tried to make an effort to acknowledge other styles of grief. Moving forward, I hope to expand coverage on different grieving styles and continue to bring you the latest research studies on emotional recovery.