the problem with grief I

I have often noticed, and I think I have written about it here previously, in my practice there will be a pattern, or what I refer to as a theme, which appears to be guiding my work over a period of time. Sometimes that period is a day, sometimes longer, but it is so prominent that I have used the discussion of the theme as a teaching tool when I work with the students I supervise. The past month or so the theme has been grief.

This is not that unusual of a theme for my practice to take on because as I have also previously written in this blog, people for the most part only come to see a psychologist when some aspect of their life has become totally, if not completely, unmanageable. For those of you out there who have experienced a loss, particularly a major one, you know that there are few issues which can take place in one’s life as seemingly unmanageable as grief.

I wrote out a rather nice article, or essay I suppose, on this subject, I even decorated it with some original art of my own like the picture above I titled grief. the problem with this article, like so much of what I write, it’s a bit too long for the blog format but somehow a bit too short for publication. Of course to put this essay into a journal would require some additional background work on my part (citing sources, conforming format to APA standards, and all that) which at present I am not super excited to engage in. I have been working on an article for several months now which I do intend to submit for publishing (hopefully in the American Journal of Analytic Psychology) and has been taking up nearly all of my creative libido these days. This is why I haven’t really posted much beyond some Haikus (the writing of which is actually a direct lead into the article), but this topic continues to press my mind and I thought I had better get something down before my psyche starts to punish me in my sleep.

I have decide in the writing of that second paragraph up there to try something new. Well new to me anyway. I looked into how the new and not as improved as I would like WordPress handles the uploading of documents completed elsewhere (I write almost exclusively in Microsoft Word. I know eck but I am old school like that and journals actually require Word documents a lo of the time) and was not at all impressed. I may be publishing this blog incognito but that does not mean I want someone to download my work free and clear (come on WordPress get it together!). Instead I have decided to post this in two, maybe three parts. This should make it easier for all of you to digest and maybe even more interested in reading it all. You all will have to let me know in the comments whether you believe my choice to be a good one but at present it does seem a prudent way to go about today’s business.

Without further ado here is Part I (for continuity’s sake just pretend the previous two paragraphs don’t exist or are the literary equivalent of an aside)

I have seen patients in many differ circumstances who are struggling withe grief and not all of them are thrown into this process due to the death of a loved one. This lead me to think about grief in a different way and lead me to discover there are a lot of myths out there about grief, the stages of grief, and the grief cycle.

When Dr. Elizabeth Kugler-Ross published On Death and Dying in 1969 shunt only defined the process a person goes through when someone loved is lost, she forever changed the lexicon of how that experience is defined. The emotional pattern she discovered is arguably one of the most commonly discussed psychological processes and is still in the common usage today 54 years later by professionals and laypeople alike. That pattern was a process of five stages which outlined a person’s journey through the grieving process. She called this process The Five Stages of Grief but it is now commonly referred to as The Grief Cycle.

Those five stages are Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance.

So common is the knowledge of the grief cycle that most of the patients I have worked with who are in the grieving process are aware off the existence of the grief cycle and in many cases know most if not all five stages of the cycle. Unfortunately that is usually where my patients’ knowledge ends. Most of them, in fact I can think of none ever in my experience as a psychotherapist, are aware of what most people believe the grief cycle entails and what the various stages mean are in fact myths. These patients also are unaware they are in fact believing in one or two of these myths and that may be, in part anyway, why they came to see me.

The primary myth about the grief is that, at least in a general sense, it is an emotion. Grief is not an emotion, like sadness or anger, it is a construct or amalgamation of emotions. That is literally what Dr,. Kubler-Ross’s research proved–the grief cycle is an experience made up of five stages, each stage being dominated by a single emotional state. Those stages again are; denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

Depression is also a construct but that was not known a the time Kubler-Ross was doing her research. I don’t have a copy of the research proving that depression is a construct but I hope it is out there should I ever change my mind about publication of this essay. I have quite enough research and writing projects in the works at the moment thank you very much. Though if it is not as a professor I had was fond of saying, there is a dissertation in there.

I think that is enough for this part. let me know what you think and as always thank you for reading.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: