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Elisabeth Kubler-Ross: Five Stages of Grief

Published: 8/24/2014
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Elisabeth Kubler-Ross (AP Photo)

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, who died Aug. 24, 2004, 10 years ago this week, wrote the 1969 best-seller On Death and Dying. The book introduced the world to what's now commonly known as the "Five Stages of Grief." Kubler-Ross, a psychiatrist, developed the model after years of working with terminally ill people. The stages are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Kubler-Ross said the order of the stages may differ by individual, and not every person may experience every stage. Most people, however, will experience two or more stages, she said, according to her obituary by The New York Times.

Kubler-Ross wrote more than a dozen follow-up books before her death at age 78. She also applied her "five stages" model to other traumatic situations, such as a divorce or losing a job.

For people who seek more reading on death and dying, both fiction and nonfiction, humorous and serious, Legacy.com offers a few suggestions:

Nonfiction

1) The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion. The renowned writer describes how she dealt with grief in the year following the death of her husband as she cares for their gravely ill daughter. Didion's adopted daughter died eight months after she'd completed the book, prompting her to write a book about that loss, Blue Nights.

2) The Truth About Grief: The Myth of Its Five Stages and the New Science of Loss by Ruth Davis Konigsberg. The veteran journalist emphasizes resilience while noting there are no right or wrong ways to experience the end of life.

3) Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach. The adventurous writer – who has also written books exploring views of the afterlife and the adventures of the alimentary canal – introduces this work by noting that she sees being dead as similar to being on a cruise ship: "Most of your time is spent lying on your back. The brain has shut down. The flesh begins to soften. Nothing much new happens, and nothing is expected of you."

Fiction

1) Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher. A teenage boy receives seven cassettes from a female classmate who has taken her own life. Listening to the tapes will reveal the 13 reasons she did it – and the boy is one of those reasons.

2) The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. Two young cancer patients fall in love at a support group. One inspiration for the novel was the author's relationship with a 16-year-old girl with thyroid cancer who died in 2010. The book was recently turned into a movie.

3) The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. Set in World War II Germany, the story is told from Death’s point of view. As a narrator, Death is matter-of-fact but also somewhat light-hearted.

Natalie Pompilio is a freelance writer based in Philadelphia. Her lifelong love of obituaries raised eyebrows when she was younger, but she's now able to explain that this interest goes beyond morbid curiosity. Says Pompilio, "Obituaries are mini life stories, allowing a glimpse into someone's world that we're often denied. I just wish we could share them with each other when we're alive."

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