Resources | Grief: About a Process or a Person?

In the course of the last one hundred years, perhaps no one has had a more profound impact on our culture’s understanding and treatment of grief than researcher and psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. Having researched the grieving process through the experience of family members and patients with terminal cancer, she is most popular for developing an understanding of grief that has had a widespread cultural influence. In 1969 she laid out her popular theory, known as the “five stages of grief” – Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance.

And while the Kübler-Ross theory has been the most culturally normative framework for thinking through the grieving process, one counselor and former pastor found that the process of mourning wasn’t always so cut-and-dry.

“At times, some people followed the stages of grief, as Kübler-Ross defined them,” writes Paul Randolph. “But others didn’t.”

He continues, “I dutifully told people to expect these stages. When these stages didn’t occur in their own grieving, they came back to me to ask if something was wrong with them. I naively suggested that perhaps they weren’t processing their grief in healthy ways because they weren’t following the grieving script.”

Randolph, the Director of Outreach at CCEF (Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation), helps us face the process of grief as we consider the question: What if grief is less about the process, and more about the person?