I will be honest – not a lot of people read this blog. And to be even more honest, I like it that way. My objective for this project was never to get views or traffic but to be an outlet and an archive for things that I was interested in. It was something I could share with my friends and people close to me and show them what I thought was interesting.
However, after writing about various things from Japanese aesthetics to Kylie Jenner for almost a year, I realized the true value of doing this – it allows me to share my thoughts with around a hundred people (most of whom I know) but, more importantly, it also makes me happy.
I have, somehow, managed to make a decent living by writing and have created somewhat of a career out of it. I love what I do but my work, just like any other work, tends to get a bit repetitive from time to time.
When you’re working in an artistic field, you’ll have to make the distinction between doing what you want and what makes you money. At some points, you’ll get to do both but this blog (where I dive into questions such as “Did Volkswagen really use the n-word?”) isn’t exactly a money-making venture.
Yet, it is something that I love. And just like with most other things that I love, I ended up destroying it in the pursuit of making it better.
I was moving my blog to a new hosting service so it loads a bit faster. Unfortunately, in the process of the said move, I ended up with a broken site and most of the content is gone. Of course, I’m not completely stupid and I had a backup which is why this new site looks exactly like the old one. But most of the posts are gone except one that I had written down in my journal before posting.
So, keeping my personal tragedy in mind and the rough year that’s 2020 has been so far, let’s take a look at the Kübler-Ross model, or more commonly known in the popular culture, the 5 Stages of Grief.
The Five Stages of Grief
The Kübler-Ross model is a neatly defined model that tries to explain how we deal with traumatic events such as loss of a loved one, end of a relationship, or when facing an illness that will definitely kill us.
Initially documented in the book On Death and Dying, the model was put forward to explain the grieving process of patients who were terminally ill. Over the years, the model was expanded to be applied to other forms of traumatic events as well.
The Five Stages of Grief is a popular model that has been talked about a lot in popular culture. However, there are a lot of arguments against the model and even Elisabeth Kübler-Ross disagrees with how the model is often conveyed in mainstream media but we’ll get to that later.
The five stages of grief, as described by Kübler-Ross, are:
At first, this model seems to be right. It takes us from the stage of denial and leads to acceptance. It tells a story and provides a process to cope through grief. However, the problem with the model is that it is not based on any empirical evidence and is largely disregarded by modern clinical practice.
Studies now show that grievers don’t progress through these stages in a lock-step fashion. Consequently, when any of us loses someone we love, we may find that we fit the stages precisely as Kubler-Ross outlined, or we may skip all but one. We may race through them or drag our feet all the way to acceptance. We may even repeat or add stages that Kubler-Ross never dreamed of. In fact, the actual grief process looks a lot less like a neat set of stages and a lot more like a roller coaster of emotions. Even Kubler-Ross said that grief doesn’t proceed in a linear and predictable fashion, writing toward the end of her career that she regretted her stages had been misunderstood.Why the Five Stages of Grief Are Wrong | Psychology Today
When I look back at the moment I lost my old website, I wasn’t exactly in what you would call a state of denial. I straight up started on anger, stayed there for a lot longer than I wanted to, and then resigned myself silently to acceptance. While Kübler-Ross does clarify that some of the stages can be skipped and different people might experience the stages different, the demonstration of the five stages of grief in popular culture states otherwise.
In popular culture, the Five Stages of Grief are always demonstrated as a series of steps that help us get through the grieving process as demonstrated by The Simpsons here –
Why do we like the idea of the Five Stages of Grief?
I’m not going to claim I know everything about the Five Stages of Grief or anything about the science of psychology other than the quick research I did while writing this. So I’m going to now pivot into my opinion about why I think people like the idea of the Five Stages of Grief instead of talking about the model and its nuances directly.
The reason why I think we are attracted to the idea of Five Stages of Grief is that the world is unpredictable and chaotic. The modern human being lives in two worlds – a world of symbols and the actual physical world (an idea that’s beautifully described in Ernest Becker’s The Denial of Death).
Most of us know what it feels like to be sad and to be angry. And all of us have gone through and will experience grief at some point in our lives.
Grief, just like any other emotion, can be raw and difficult to deal with. However, with ideas like Five Stages of Grief, we make the idea of grief a bit more comfortable.
Instead of experiencing something that we are not capable to deal with or understand, The Five Stages of Grief give us a narrative, a standard story for our grief and a way out of it. In some ways, it comforts us with the idea that we’ll start at the stage of denial and end up accepting whatever tragic event we were unfortunate to experience.
The Five Stages of Grief, just like The Hero’s Journey, is a testament to the power that story-telling and narrative play in our symbolic lives. We are constantly mapping and modelling our experiences in a narrative that we call our life and the Five Stage of Grief is just another handy device that helps us in the process and maybe that’s why it has found its place in the mainstream ideas about dealing with grief.