Kubler-Ross applied these stages to people suffering from a terminal illness in her early seminars at the University of Chicago’s medical school. She later saw that the model could include any form of catastrophic loss or a significant life event: divorce, drug addiction, natural disasters or tragedies.
As our attention turns to the second stage—anger—it might be better to think of anger as a state rather than a stage. We tend to think of a stage as a phase that leads to another phase or the end result. It would be better to see anger as a “state” during the grieving process where the circumstances or conditions of life are such that anger might easily be the response.
During the fourth stage, depression, the grieving person comes to the certainty and reality of death and is almost frozen in their tracks. Up to this point, sadness reigns, but the individual is able to muster the energy to maneuver – to deny, to have anger, or to bargain. In stage four, there appears to be nothing that can be done to alter the inevitable outcome.
Trying to offer the right words of condolence and support following the death of a friend or loved one is always a difficult task. But attempting to provide comfort to one grieving a loss under a special circumstance is exponentially more challenging. One should first and foremost be reminded of the stages of grief that have been discussed by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and others.