Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Hand it to Kübler-Ross

In 1969 Elizabeth Kübler-Ross, a Swiss psychiatrist, wrote a book, On Death and Dying, inspired by her work with terminally ill patients. The Kübler-Ross Model broke down the emotional stages a person go through when dealing with facing a terminal diagnosis. The model was embraced by the public, survivors, and many types of therapists, but the medical viability of her model is still debated within circles of research.

The five stages she found were Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. Not always experienced in order or in their entirety.

Over the years she expanded the model to include any and all forms of personal loss. Divorce, rejection, loss of a job, addiction, incarceration, infertility, diagnosis of disease, and the death of loved ones were added to the model. She also included minor losses who experience lesser subsections of the model.

Survivors are well aware of these emotional categories, only for them it is not a mere model or series of emotional possibilities. These stages become an integral part of their daily reality during times of crisis, trauma, and illness in ways which can not easily be dissected by research or categorized by theories.

The truth is the order changes constantly and the stages overlap with a tendency to contradict each other. Some of the stages are less frequent or severe, while others can be overwhelming and shockingly debilitating. They manage to repeat, pounding away at your strength and rationale.

Survivors do deny: It isn't happening, it isn't that bad, and it isn't over. Things will change beneficially.

Survivors are angry and rage: Hate, blame, I don't want this, and I don't deserve it.

Survivors will bargain: I will change this, I will do that, I will give this to get that, and make all kind of deals.

Survivors become depressed: I can't do this, it is too much, it hurts. Sadness, discouragement, and moments of complete hopelessness.

Survivors come to accept.

This one is tricky. Acceptance is the most complicated of the stages, for it has a variety of grey areas and different forms, dependent on what you are facing and how you choose to accept it.

Maybe you admit to having a problem or abandon attempts to fix something broken. Perhaps you resign yourself to the situation or the embrace the need to treat it to find a resolution. Or you just let go and move on, confronting the eventual outcome. Acceptance can involve peace and grief. It can be a relief or carry the weight of the reality of what is coming.

There is no wrong or right way to endure the stages. There are no directions to the model which will completely set the course of your situation. But, while it is important to allow yourself the chance to work through what you need to, it is equally as vital to not allow one stage to pull you off course.

Imagine the individual stages like the fingers on your hand, working in tandem or on their own, but still utterly a part of the hand. 

The stages are only part of your trauma, crisis, or illness. There is a bigger whole, affected by the pieces, but still you. Don't dwell or stagnate in a stage, but give yourself time with each stage, they are part of you.

Denial can give you the time to wrap your brain around something overwhelming. Rage is an outlet to vent, releasing fears and frustrations. Bargaining can show you what is important and what you can let go of. Depression is natural, it is impossible to always be positive and crying can help take the sad out of you. Acceptance can help move you forward in a way that makes the most of you and your individual needs.

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