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Grieving Mothers, Child Loss, & the Five Stages of Grief

Updated: Jan 26

I wish the world would stop talking about the stages of grief. It drives me crazy. Child loss simply does not work this way. Ask any grieving mother.

Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross established the five stage of grief in 1969 in her book On Death and Dying. The five stages including denial, anger, depression, bargaining, and acceptance were believed to be the five phases that patients go through after receiving a terminal prognosis. In time, it was applied to everyone experiencing grief and became the accepted model.

Some of you may have lost a child to a terminal illness and may have experienced feelings as outlined in Kubler-Ross's model, but many do not experience their grief as outlined in this theory.

I appreciate the fact that time was spent studying grief and that by creating this theory and book, it has helped open the discussion around grief.

Kubler-Ross began studying grief because there were so few resources available to medical students about death and dying. Goodness knows we need to talk about death, dying, and grief more, but with all the backlash that this theory has received, I am confused why counsellors, therapists, or anyone refers to it at all.

After Katie died, we sought out family counselling. I thought that was what we should do and that we would get the guidance we needed to help us manage the blinding pain and learn how we could best support one another. It was awful to say the least.

When the young therapist pulled out a laminated diagram of the Kulber-Ross model, I nearly lost my mind.

In fact, I was very angry. I said "No. Please do not show me that. Our situation does not fit into that model AT ALL. I learned about that early on in my career and know that was created for patients who have been given a terminal diagnosis." However, she insisted my then 15 year old son needed to hear about it. Insert eye roll here.

Even Wikipedia states 'Although commonly referenced in popular media, the existence of these stages has not been empirically demonstrated and the model is not considered helpful in explaining the grieving process. It is considered to be of historical value but outdated in scientific terms and in a clinical practice.'