Grief is a fact of life that is inevitable. Through loss, pain and suffering in any way, one goes through grief, with each individual with their own way of handling grief. How one chooses to handle grief is entirely up to the individual and their personality, their environment and the social support structures they have to aid them through this process. In an attempt to explain and understand grief and the process of grief, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross hypothesized the “ grief cycle”, otherwise known as the five stages of grief. In this paper, I will seek to critically look into the grief cycle, comparing it to the biblical story of job and
In the book Death and Dying Kübler-Ross believed that when an individual faces the veracity of impending death and/or any other form of awful and extreme fate, they usually go through a process and sequence of emotional phases or stages. Namely:
Notably, even Kübler-Ross was of the opinion that the phases in the grief cycle is not a complete and concrete list of all the possible emotion one can go through when handling grief also, the five stages can occur in any given order as the events of grief are indeed as unique as every individual is in terms of personality and character.
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This is defined as the conscious or unconscious rejection of acceptance of reality, facts and information relating to the situation in question. This can be seen as a defense mechanism that almost all individuals put in place to protect themselves from the emotions of pain grief, suffering and loss. Death is inevitable and every individual has to experience it through loss of loved ones. Individuals may become locked and shield themselves from the pain.
This is a stage that may manifest itself in many ways. At this phase an individual may become angry either towards themselves, others or both. This is usually common with people closest to them. Individuals going through emotional upset as a result of a traumatic and painful event such as death may misplace feelings of envy and rage towards their loved ones. It is critical that they stay nonjudgmental and detached as caring for an individual at this stage is usually very difficult.
In this stage, the individual facing death will attempt to begin or negotiate with a higher power for the extension of life, either a few more, minutes, hours, days or even years. They will try to negotiate with God (Christian), Allah (Muslim) or any other deity that they perceive can help them extend their life. This stage usually provides little to no comfort to the person as in the situation of death.
At this stage, the certainty and inevitability of the extreme or awful fate dawns on the individual. They resort to silence and distance themselves from company and companionship. The individual may be found to be grieving and crying. Loss of appetite and purpose to live is common. At this stage, it is advisable that a good social support structure be in place for the individual as they at time can resort to fatal tendencies, such as suicide.
This is the final stage where an individual resides themselves to the tragic event in question. For people who are facing imminent death, they tend to arrive at this stage before their loved ones. This is when an individual becomes objective and accepts emotional detachment from the tragic event.
In the story of Job, the bible depicts how a man of unwavering faith goes through a period of immense turmoil and loss. Jobs story resembles remarkable similarity with Kübler-Ross’ grief cycle. Even though Job does not go through the grief cycle in its order, the biblical depiction of this cycle’s existence long before the existence of Kübler-Ross further supports the validity of the five stages of grief.
At first, in the aftermath of losing his children and property, Job slips into denial by supposing that God would not and should not be condemned because of his loss. He turns to worship and lives like everything is normal.
“ Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there; the LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” And the story teller confirms that “ In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrongdoing.” (Job 1: 20-22)
Job then goes through depression as the second stage. He curses the day he was born and wishes he had died at birth.
“ After this Job opened his mouth and cursed the day he was born. Job spoke up and said: “ Let the day on which I was born perish, and the night that said, A man has been conceived.” (Job 3: 1-4)
The third stage Job goes through is anger. He depicts his anger by stating how despite is innocence and faith in God, he still cannot face God who has taken away everything that he held dear.
How much less, then, can I answer him and choose my words to argue with him! Although I am innocent, I could not answer him; I could only plead with my judge for mercy. If I summoned him, and he answered me, I would not believe that he would be listening to my voice (Job 9: 14-16)
Then job goes through the stage of bargaining. He reminisces and wishes to be back to his state in the previous months leading to his despair and loss.
Then Job continued his speech: “ O that I could be as I was in the months now gone (Job 29: 1-2)
Finally Job resides himself to his loss and is able to move on with his walk in his faith (Acceptance).
“ I know that you can do all things and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted . . . Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know . . . I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you . . .” (Job 42: 2-5)
I believe Kübler-Ross’ grief cycle is a true reflection of the process that people go through during grief. As much as I would always want to skip to the acceptance stage, the pother fur stages are crucial to the completion of grief and enhances one’s ability to move on. However, during the stages of anger and depression, I make it a point to understand what I am going through and acknowledge its importance. Keeping family and friends through the whole process is important to me to maintain a much needed social and even spiritual support structure.
Crenshaw, D. A., & Van, O. W. (1990). Bereavement: Counseling the grieving throughout the life cycle. New York: Continuum.
Hockey, J. L., Katz, J., & Small, N. (2001). Grief, mourning, and death ritual. Buckingham: Open University Press.
Kübler-Ros, E. (1969). On death and dying. New York: Macmillan.
Kübler-Ross, E. (1981). Living with death and dying. New YYork: Macmillan.
O’Connell, T. L. (2009). Dialogue on grief and consolation. Amsterdam: Rodopi.
Winokuer, H. R., & Harris, D. (2012). Principles and practice of grief counseling. New York: Springer Pub. Co.