Elisabeth Kubler-Ross was a Swiss born psychiatrist. She moved to New York
and was not impressed by the way terminally ill people were treated in
hospitals: in the 1950s and 60s doctors were often embarrassed at such
patients because it looked like they had failed them (treatments weren't
as effective then). As a consequence, patients in this situation were
often shunned by medics. Later on she developed the Grief Cycle of which
she is now so renowned for.
In my opinion, this cycle is not only useful for people who are terminally ill, but also for individuals who are going through horrendous situations in their own lives. Examples include loss of a significant other, relationship break-up e.g. divorce or even redundancy.
Stage 1 Denial
Here the person refuses to accept the horrible situation that they are in: "this cannot be happening to me."
Stage 2 Anger
The person has realised that they cannot deny the situation anymore. They then start to ask question such as, "why is this happening to me?"
The person can feel jealous of people who are not in this situation.
Stage 3 Bargaining
Here the person tries to negotiate with fate with the view of having more time. They may say things like "I will just ask that I am able to see my new grandchild."
Stage 4 Depression
This is a real grieving time where the enormity of what is going to happen is just beginning to sink in. Here the individual tries to sever any connections from the things that they love: "I know I am going to die so what’s the point of doing anything?"
Stage 5 Acceptance
The person comes to terms with what is going to happen. They come to be at peace with themselves.
Kubler-Ross believed that this cycle is highly individualistic e.g. people do not have to go through the stages in any particular order, but the final stage is usually acceptance. They might go onto a later stage whilst not completing through a previous stage thereby there is a "back and forward process." Some people don’t go through all the stages – however most go through at least two. Others get stuck in a stage especially the denial one.
I think that this cycle is extremely useful to acknowledge especially when a friend or close one is going through such a situation. I think that it makes family and friends feel a little more patient and understanding of what that loved one is going through.