(42) Models… continued

It’s already the 42nd post, some more weeks and we celebrate the 1st anniversary of this website. When looking backward to all blogs that have been written on this website, a number of things related to bereavement are starting to stand out.

We discussed the five phases of grief ( (i) denial, (ii) anger, (iii) bargaining, (iv) depression and (v) acceptance ) as developed by Elisabeth Kübler Ross in ‘Models… What can we do with models’. The phases do not form a roadmap that can be carried out and checked off, but they reflect the phases you are going through during your bereavement. In this regard it just looks like a project. There is cause or a reason for the project (the loss), a beginning (denial) and eventually there is an end (acceptance). After that, the project is completed and everyone proceeds to business as usual.  Most people around us seem to think like this.

But, does that apply to bereavement? Elisabeth Kübler Ross’ model also suggests an outcome like that with phase (v) acceptance. Models are the outcome of much research and not only that, the starting points for a model are also very important. It makes quite a difference when the model is based on interviews with terminal patients, or the bereaved, or the divorced, or… Models are also (sometimes very large) simplifications of reality. The result is that good models can explain a lot, but not everything.

A few examples from my life.

Like everyone else, I expect, I had my first true love. Despite that our love was very profound, there were forces at work that eventually did end our relationship. After several relationships I married my wife, my great love. Our marriage had its lows and highs, but we stayed true to each other until my wife died. After several years my wife brought to my attention that I was going through a bad patch the same month every year. She had observed it, I hadn’t noticed it. After several discussions with her, the bad patch appeared to correspond with the day my relationship with my first true love ended. It took a while, but eventually the annual bad patch disappeared.

My daughter died mid-June 2000. And although life goes on I have to say that I have a considerable bad patch each year in June. This bad patch doesn’t seem to disappear though, on the contrary. When I discuss this with others, most often their response is “that’s a matter of course… it’s your daughter… you lost a part of your future… you guys were also thick buddies.” But, dear reader, do realize that I have seen all phases from “denial” to “acceptance” from Elisabeth Kübler Ross’ model even before my daughter passed away. I realize that this may sound a ‘bit’ blunt, but I expect that you will understand this when you have read several of my earlier blogs like ‘How it started’.

My wife died January 2011. And although her death is still relatively recently, I can say that I have gone through all phases of Elisabeth Kübler Ross’ model. Nevertheless, this year I had a bad patch again. This time not around the day of her death, but… during her birthday in May. Maybe it’s not just that I lost a part of my present, but also because we were having a lot of fun the two of us together around her birthday.

A conclusion I can draw from the above is that the process of grieving doesn’t have to be a linear one as indicated by Elisabeth Kübler Ross’ model, but can also be cyclical; a regularly recurring phenomenon.

Apparently you can have acceptance and yet you can be regularly (very) sad because something has touched your soul in its core.

To be continued…

Author: Hans Fransen

Founder of the Mourn & Grief Foundation

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