Department Of Yet Another Content Warning ® …
….which I hope you will (eventually, if not now) ignore.
The following deals with grief. Specifically, the intense and traumatic grief experienced by the sudden and/or unanticipated death of a loved one.
If you are presently not in a physical or emotional space to handle the subject, moiself hopes you’ll take care of yourself, and read this later.  The thing is, if you aren’t grieving such a loss right now, you will later on…and someone you know and love is dealing with this or will be, soon. That is Life’s price of admission…and one particular grief survivor’s insights and observations could be – I’ll go so far as to say *will* be – of use to you.
The following excerpt blew me away (my emphases):
“The five stages of grief are ingrained in our cultural consciousness as the natural progression of emotions one experiences after the death of a loved one. However, it turns out that this model is not science-based, does not well describe most people’s experiences, and was never even meant to apply to the bereaved.
(“It’s Time to Let the Five Stages of Grief Die,”
McGill University, Office for Science and Society )
I had read about the questionable science behind The 5 Stages of Grief ® model, and had always had my doubts about its application. But I had no idea that it was *never* meant to be applied to the bereaved – to people grieving the death of *other* people.
But wait – there’s more.
“…many people, even professional psychologists, believe there is a right way and a wrong way to grieve, that there is an orderly and predictable pattern that everyone will go through, and if you don’t progress correctly, you are failing at grief. You must move through these stages completely, or you will never heal.
This is a lie.
Death and its aftermath is such a painful and disorienting time. I understand why people – both the griever and those witnessing grief – want some kind of road map, a clearly delineated set of steps or stages that will guarantee a successful end to the pain of grief. The truth is, grief is as individual as love: every life, every path, is unique. There is no predictable pattern, and no linear progression. Despite what many ‘experts’ say, there are no stages of grief.
In her later years, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross wrote that she regretted writing the stages the way that she did, that people mistook them as being both linear and universal.”
( “The 5 Stages of Grief and Other Lies That Don’t Help Anyone”,
Megan Devine, author of “It’s OK That You’re Not OK.” )
“We’ve all heard about The 5 stages of Grief. But what happens when your experience doesn’t follow that model at all? Resilience researcher Lucy Hone began to question how we think about grief after a devastating loss in her own life. She shares the techniques she learned to help her cope with tragedy.”
( intro to the Hidden Brain Podcast, “Healing Your Heart” )
This is the podcast I want you to listen to, and Lucy Hone is the “one particular survivor” I referred to earlier in this post.
Lucy Hone, Ph. D., is an adjunct senior fellow at the University of Canterbury (NZ) and author of Resilient Grieving: Finding Strength and Embracing Life After a Loss that Changes Everything. Hone has a master’s in applied positive psychology from the University of Pennsylvania and a Ph.D. in well-being science/public health from AUT University. 
The 5 Stages of Grief ® has become part of our culture’s how-to-grieve manual. But the thing is, this list which was meant to be descriptive has now turned proscriptive. It’s originator, Swiss-American psychiatrist Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, *surmised* (not proved) these stages, when, as a psychiatry resident, she observed observations of people dealing with terminal illness – people who had advance knowledge of their impending death.
And yet, how many times have you heard about
* the family of a *recently* and *suddenly* deceased person  “going through the five stages of grief.”
* someone else, perhaps also grieving the same loss, being concerned that these same family members had not gone through the stages, or had skipped a few and were therefore stuck in their grief or somehow not doing it properly?
Something like this happened to the HB podcast guest. Dr. Hone, ironically enough, a “resilience researcher,” had to rethink her and society’s approaches to grieving after the devastating loss of her beloved 12-year old daughter, Abi, who died after the car she was riding in (along with Abi’s best friend Emma and Emma’s mother) was t-boned by a driver who went through a stop sign at high speed. 
Hone and HB host Shankar Vidantam talked about Hone’s drive to know what she could do to manage her grief.
HB host Shankar Vidantam:
“…the grief counselors and others told you that the next five years of your life were going to be consumed by grief; that you were a prime candidates for divorce, estrangement, and mental illness. You also heard about the 5 Stages of Grief. What is the conventional wisdom about the 5 Stages of Grief, Lucy?”
“…Like most people, I was kind of aware about the stages, and like most people I could probably name about three of them. But when people started telling me about them – and boy, anyone who’s ever been bereaved will know that people tell you about them! – they expect you to go through them.
Pretty quickly I became frustrated with (the 5 Stages), because I didn’t feel anger and animosity towards the driver. I knew that that was a terrible mistake – that he didn’t do it intentionally. And I wasn’t in denial – from the very first moment I remember thinking, ‘Okay, this is my job now, my mission is to survive this.’ And so they didn’t fit with my experience.
And the other aspect that quickly frustrated me (with the 5 stages) is that it’s reasonably helpful to be told that you might feel ___ (all of these different things), but actually, I don’t want to be told what I’m going to feel; I am desperate to know what I can do, to help us all adapt to this terrible loss.”
“I’m struck by the fact that at a certain point in your journey of grief over Abi’s death you were thinking like a researcher, or starting to ask yourself whether you yourself could be a research subject – that you’re’ studying yourself, observing yourself, like a scientist…”
Hone went on to say that yes, she did have a moment of being aware that she was both
“…experiencing this devastating loss and curious about my experiences simultaneously…
I was doing this internally, observing my loss and my reaction to it, and then I thought, ‘Well, what I’m really curious about, is we have all these tools from resilient psychology, which have been shown to help people cope with potentially traumatic events. How useful are they when they are brought to the context of bereavement?’ And so that’s been the question I’ve been really exploring, ever since Abi died.”
“Pondering this question gave (Hone) the space to analyze how her own mind was responding to grief. When she noticed something about how she was coping, she reserved judgement about what it meant.
When she engaged in ‘what-if’ scenarios – What if she hadn’t allowed Abi to drive with the other family? What if she hadn’t planned a beach vacation? – she noticed how those thoughts made her feel. She paid attention to how she felt after getting exercise or a good night’s sleep. In other words, she started behaving like a scientist.
She eventually discovered there were things that made her feel better, and things that made her feel worse. She came up with a series of techniques that gave her a measure of control over her grief.”
“I distinctly remember standing in the kitchen thinking, ‘Seriously, Lucy, chose life over death. Don’t lose what you have over what you’ve lost.’ “
I wanted to print a transcript of the whole episode, it’s so good, but I’ll leave it to you to find that, or listen to the entire episode (the link again: Healing your Heart.)
Moiself will, instead, just list a few bullet point-style take aways:
* Hone’s ideas are not a glib substitutions for one series/stages or method over another.
* Models such as “The 5 Stages Of Grief, The Four Stages Of Recovery,” et. al., have been perpetuated because they are tidy. But grief is not tidy; grief is messy and does not lend itself to finite lists. According to one researcher, grief is “as individual as your fingerprints.” What works for you as a strategy for handling your grief might not work for your spouse, your mother, your brother, your siblings – even as you are all grieving the same loss.
* “Taking a break” from grief is not avoidance, or denial.
* Learn the difference between grief reaction, over which we have little control, and grief response, which is loaded with options
* It isn’t *easy* – to learn such distinctions and apply techniques to give you a measure of control over your grief – but is it possible.
* * *
* * *
Department Of Rest In Peace Face-Palming Laughter
Gilbert Gottfried, died last week. YOU FOOL!
* * *
Punz For The Day
Stand Up For Comedians Edition
I was in Russia listening to a stand-up comedian making fun of Putin.
The jokes weren’t that good, but I liked the execution.
What kind of humor do quarantined comedians use?
Why do mountains make good comedians?
Because they’re hill areas…
A new standup comic told jokes about the unemployed.
Unfortunately, none of them worked.
What did the cannibal comedian say when he tried to eat the audience?
* * *
May you appreciate the differences between reactions and responses;
May you rethink your own “However Many Stages of Doing This Thing” lists;
May you treat yourself to some stress relief and watch Paul Lynde’s one-liners outtakes from Hollywood Squares;
…and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
* * *
 Not because moiself is the preeminent grief expert; rather, the people behind resources I am citing *are.*
 as per UC Berkely’s Greater Good Science Center (“Science-based Insights for a Meaningful Life”).
 Suddenly as in, via an accident or homicide or suicide – any death that was unexpected or not with foreknowledge of its inevitability, as in, with cancer or other diagnosed terminal illnesses.
 The two girls and the adult woman died; the driver who caused the accident survived.
Apr 25, 2022 @ 14:00:30
I hadn’t heard these ideas before about how the 5 stages of grief are just someone’s ideas and not well-researched. Thanks for writing about this.
Apr 25, 2022 @ 18:02:26
You’re welcome. I was also surprised…but, not really. Lists of “This is how things go” never seem, to me, to be tidily applicable to human beings.
Apr 27, 2022 @ 10:50:56
I just listened to the podcast a week ago. Life changing and ordered Hone’s book.