Is There A Right Way Or A Wrong Way To Grieve? : Questioning The Kuble-Ross Model

grief-The Kuble-Ross Model

Human beings are the most complex creatures. And in today’s scenario, competing in the race to achieve as much as we can, and as fast as we can, most of us have failed to keep our emotions in check. So when a situation occurs that triggers our emotional system, we barely know how to handle it or to overcome it. Emotions are never black and white. They have the capability to affect us in ways we can never understand. This is where scientific theories come in that explain how we function when faced with different emotions.


Grief is a very strong emotion. It is not just concentrated on a particular part, it affects your whole system, be it emotional, physical or mental. There are many situations where we are engulfed by grief. It might be because of a prolonged suffering or a sudden heartache. Our mind goes through so much when we grieve that we fail to identify what is happening, let alone trying to overcome it.


To elaborate on the grief, Ms. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross came up with a Kubler-Ross model in her book, On Death and Dying in 1969.

She stated that there are 5 stages of grief - denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance.

5 stages of grief

First Stage

denial - stages of grief

The first stage being denial refers to the state of a person to remain in denial, to escape reality and shielding oneself from further pain. Denying what has happened to you is a very natural reaction. When the intensity of pain is strong then being in denial helps to manage the overbearing pain. The idea that your loss can never be replaced is very intense and denial seems an appropriate reaction to cope up with your loss.

Second Stage

anger- stages of grief

The second stage of grief according to this model is anger. When it becomes impossible for the person to remain in denial, the realisation of their loss frustrates them and that builds up their anger. They start questioning as to why the had to suffer or why were the subjected to that pain.

The series of questions to the life increases their anger and their hate for everything around them.

Third Stage

bargain- stages of grief

The third stage is bargaining. When a person is subjected to pain, they turn their anger to bargain for their pain in exchange to give up something or do something. When the pain becomes unbearable we look for any way that may end our suffering, so bargaining for pain seems reasonable.

Fourth Stage

depression - stages of grief

The fourth stage mentioned is depression. In this stage, the person gives up on any effort and soaks in the depression. Here they loose any kind of hope that their lives will ever be better or will they ever be happy again. The depressing thought that their life may never be same again, keeps bugging them. It almost feels as if they had given up on looking for happiness and have accepted that their life is now full of sorrow.

Fifth Stage

acceptance - stages of grief

Fifth and the last stage according to Ms. Elisabeth is acceptance. In this stage the person suffering, after going through all those stages finally accepts the events in their life and makes an effort to move on. This stage can be seen as a silver lining after all the suffering and trauma.

Over the years, there have been many criticisms regarding this model. Mainly because every human being is different from one another. Every person has a different psychology and handles emotions differently.

One thing that must be kept in mind is that we as humans are anything but predictable. There is no one way or a particular way how a human mind works. It is very difficult to predict how a person is going to react to a particular situation. It is not necessary that every person when in grief goes through all those stages. It cannot be applied to all cases. Every person handles grief differently. Some may skip all the between stages and reach acceptance way before than expected. Some may never reach acceptance, they might live along with the depression or the anger always burning inside them. Some may even cover all the stages but not in the same order.

So to answer the question ‘if there is a right or a wrong way to grief’- No, there is no right way or wrong way to grief. It depends on the kind of trauma they had to go through and how long they had to suffer. Even then you cannot predict their mind and emotions.

Grief is a very strong emotion and definitely not predictable.