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The Five Stages of Grief - Research Paper

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Misty Williams


April 22, 2016

Professor Andrea Hogan

The Five Stages of Grief

Grief can be defined as the personal reaction to the loss or removal of someone or something of importance from one’s life, which includes feelings and emotions, physical sensations, and thoughts. According to Harvey and Weber (1998), almost every individual has experienced an event in their life which is considered a major loss. Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross also acknowledges that people will grieve the loss of a person or something of importance at some point of time in life, and that individuals tend to deny the grief process as means to averting pain. Research states that it will be much healthier for one to accept the loss and travel through the grieving process. Dr. Kubler-Ross explains that there are five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. She states, “The grief process follows a normal sequence of deny, rage, trying to negotiate, a depressed state, and finally acquiescence” (Kubler-Ross, 1969). While dealing with loss is never easy, but understanding and traveling through the grief process could prove to be beneficial.

 The various stages of emotions a person encounter when dealing with the loss a loved one is perfectly normal. According to M. Smith and J. Segal (2014), emotions are onset early in the five stages of the grieving process. In the denial stage, the first stage of the grieving process, the individual rejects the reality of the loss. While it is a normal reaction to rationalize overwhelming emotions, it is a defense mechanism for people that soothes or blocks out the immediate shock. They are then moved to anger, which is the second stage of the grieving process, and it is realized that the reality of the loss cannot be denied, which is when and where negative emotions form. The bargaining or third stage of the grieving process is when person seeks hope that reality of the loss can be avoided. When an individual realizes that the loss cannot be avoided they transition to the fourth stage of the grieving process which is depression. The person may sink into a depression before finally coming to terms with reality. The final and fifth stage of the grieving process is acceptance. The individual has accepted the loss of a loved one or something of importance and make plans to move forward in life. After a person has dealt with the emotions of grieving, they move to the process of healing; learning to rebuild is the beginning of the healing process.

Culture, identity, and personal beliefs impact a person’s actions and decisions during a loss and burial process. The Jewish culture developed a traditional system of mourning concerning death and burial. The Jewish community views deaths as an ending of life, rather than as a beginning of another. Jewish funeral and mourning rituals are focused on respect for the dead. The body is buried within 24-48 hours, so the soul can be returned to God and the body is never left alone until burial (Smith-Gabai & Ludwig, 2011). The body is not cremated, but left to decay in a natural process to return it to God in the best condition possible. On the other hand, the Native American culture varies considerably in their traditions, religions, and rituals regarding loss. The burial services of the Native American culture are moderated by the spiritual leader. There is no particular order due to the uniqueness of the individual, and in some instances the burial is not traditional. Some tribes call on the ancestors to join the deceased to assist the person in their transition. They too are not concerned about preserving the body, so embalming is not common.  They believe that the spirit of the person never dies, and gifts are buried with the deceased as a symbolic gesture that the person still lives. It is important to ensure that the burial of the person takes place in their native homeland, so that they may join their ancestors, and so that they may also inhabit the land to which their loved ones will also return.

Grief is experienced within all cultures, and the way in which individuals express their feelings differ across cultures. There are rituals that influence the expression of grief in some cultures that assist people who are dying and their loved one in managing loss. Each culture has a viewpoint regarding the meaning and purpose of life and what happens after death, and it informs them of how death or loss should be approached. In some cultures, people believe that the spirit of a loved one directly influences the living, and the family finds comfort by believing that their loved one is watching over them. Individuals conform to the beliefs and values of their culture to meet their unique needs. This is especially true in societies made up of people from many cultural backgrounds. A family with members from two or more cultural backgrounds may develop its own set of rituals and customs. It may be difficult to understand how to be sensitive to a grieving person with a different cultural background, while some may have a level of despair that feels out of step with cultural beliefs about life after death. Despite cultural norms, people need to grieve in ways that feel right to them.



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