Brief History of the Five Stages of Grief

Grief is what we feel inside. Mourning is what we experience and show to others on the outside. So I can never see your grief or judge your grief by whether or not you’re crying or angry or upset. Only you will ever know your grief.

The attachment we feel for each other, to those we love, to the house we live, to the job we engage in – will be reflected by the pain we feel later when we no longer have the job, our loved one or our house. We grieve for those we love, we even grieve for those we hate, but we don’t grieve for those we are indifferent to.

So in a very real way grief is evidence of your love. Each tear is proof that you cared. You loved.

In 1917 Freud wrote, “grieving is a natural process that should not be tampered with.” Is that still true today?

If that’s true, what’s with all the books? The bereavement groups and seminars? Well let’s compare 1917 to today.

Now, the reality is, your love ones live states or countries away. There is no longer natural infrastructure around us. Our family and extended family no longer living in the same house.

Elisabeth Kubler Ross first identified the five stages in her groundbreaking book, On Death and Dying in 1969. The stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

David Kessler also discussed the possibility of a sixth stage, the stage of “meaning.” These stages occur naturally in our lives every day around many changes.

For some people, in a very real way, they did grieve for say John Kennedy, Princess Diana, or Steve Jobs. They may have never met them and yet so many public figures are a part of our life. In a very new way the Internet has become our new Town square. A hundred years ago when a loss occurred, we would hear about it in the Town square. We would talk with one another there. We would express publicly our sadness and shock. Today, Facebook, Twitter and other social media are our new Town square.

Evolutionary biologist sometimes think grief is passed from one generation to another, not just because it provides benefit in itself, but rather it’s a side effect of having attachments and relationships. I believe it is more than that. We often think we want to escape grief, but really what we want to escape is the pain of loss.

Grief is a miraculous gift which is given to us to help heal that pain. If you allow it…

Grief always works.

Grief always heals.

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