There’s a nicely written piece over at Obit magazine, a review of a new book, The Truth About Grief: The Myth of Its Five Stages and the New Science of Loss (Simon & Schuster), by Ruth Davis Konigsberg. It’s probably worth reading.
It’s a demolition job on certain schools of bereavement counselling — those informed by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s On Death and Dying. I don’t know how prevalent it is in the UK now, the orthodoxy that bereaved people must, under the supervision of a well-meaning person who’s been on a course, be taken on a journey through the Famous Five Stages — possibly stage by stage to a strict timetable. Denial. Anger. Depression. Bargaining. Acceptance.
With acceptance, of course, comes closure, as the bereaved person finally ejects the dead person, wiggles her tail and swims happily away to join all the other carefree fishes. Something like that. (How I wish we could put WTF in tiny caps after a word, as we put TM after a brand name. Closure WTF)
If it misses the point bigtime, why should we be surprised? Kubler Ross was writing about the emotions a dying person might go through, not a bereaved one. And I don’t remember her prescribing the full five in the right order.
“When 233 people were interviewed [by Yale University researchers] between one to 24 months after the death of a spouse, most respondents accepted the death of a loved one from the very beginning.” I seem to recall that studies of those bereaved by the 911 attacks revealed that counselling had prolonged the grief of many of those unlucky enough to receive it; those who had none did best.
While I was researching my book I spoke to someone at Cruse who fielded this question: Have you done any research to discover whether a good funeral can be transformative of grief? (Ans: We’ve never thought of that.)
I am sure there are good things going on in the bereavement sector and I hope someone will tell us what they are. Counsellors take a bit of a bashing from sceptics (until they themselves need counselling).