Change And The Grief Cycle (Kubler-Ross)
Here is an article from Changing Minds – link below
For many years, people with terminal illnesses were an embarrassment for doctors. Someone who could not be cured was evidence of the doctors’ fallibility. And as a result the doctors regularly shunned the dying with the excuse that there was nothing more that could be done. There was, after all, plenty of other demand on the doctors’ time.
Elizabeth Kübler-Ross was a doctor in Switzerland who railed against this unkindness. She spent a lot of time with dying people, both comforting and studying them. She wrote a book, called ‘On Death and Dying.’ This included a cycle of emotional states that is often referred to (but not exclusively called) the Grief Cycle.
In the ensuing years, it was noticed that this emotional cycle was not exclusive just to the terminally ill. But it was also found in other people who were affected by bad news. They may have lost their job or otherwise been negatively affected by change. The important factor was not that the change was good or bad. It was that they perceived it as a significantly negative event.
The Grief Cycle
The Grief Cycle is shown the chart below, It indicates a the roller-coaster ride of activity and passivity as someone wriggles and turns in their desperate efforts to avoid the change.
The initial state before the cycle is received is stable, at least in terms of the subsequent reaction on hearing the bad news. Life before, compared with the ups and downs to come, feels stable.
And then, into the calm of this relative paradise, a bombshell bursts…
- Shock stage: Initial paralysis at hearing the bad news.
- Denial stage: Trying to avoid the inevitable.
- Anger stage: Frustrated outpouring of bottled-up emotion.
- Bargaining stage: Seeking in vain for a way out.
- Depression stage: Final realization of the inevitable.
- Testing stage: Seeking realistic solutions.
- Acceptance stage: Finally finding the way forward.
Sticking and cycling
A common problem with the above cycle is that people get stuck in one phase. Thus a person may become stuck in denial, never moving on from the position of not accepting the inevitable future. When it happens, they still keep on denying it. Such as the person who has lost their job still going into the city only to sit on a park bench all day.
Getting stuck in denial is common in ‘cool’ cultures (such as in Britain, particularly Southern England) where expressing anger is not acceptable. The person may feel that anger, but may then repress it, bottling it up inside.
Likewise, a person may be stuck in permanent anger (which is itself a form of flight from reality) or repeated bargaining. It is more difficult to get stuck in active states than in passivity, and getting stuck in depression is perhaps a more common ailment.
Going in cycles
Another trap is that when a person moves on to the next phase, they have not completed an earlier phase and so move backwards in cyclic loops that repeat previous emotion and actions. Thus, for example, a person that finds bargaining not to be working, may go back into anger or denial.
Cycling is itself a form of avoidance of the inevitable, and going backwards in time may seem to be a way of extending the time before the perceived bad thing happens.
Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, On Death and Dying, Macmillan, NY, 1969
Changing Minds Website – link below
Wendy Smith is a career consultant, life coach and business coach with depth of experience in management, coaching and personal development. That experience means she is equally at home helping clients find a new career direction, starting-up new businesses or dealing with life’s more challenging personal issues. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Wendy has written a little eBook on how to get on with your boss and a book on job search – you can find her books on Amazon at this link