Grief Stages Unpredictable

The five stages of grief outlined by Elizabeth Kubler Ross in 1969 almost never play out in chronological order with the 5th one, acceptance, signaling a closure of sorts. This finding from a Baylor University study is probably not news to you if you've experienced grief yourself. A release from the university notes that study co-author Margaret Baier PhD likens the process of grieving to a pinball machine "with triggers of sorrow acting like pinball rudders to send a mourner into a rebound rather than an exit." The release quotes Baier as saying, "One of the most freeing aspects of this model is the notion that grief is never complete."

Baier and co-author Ruth Buechsel of the Brooke Army Medical Center published their study in the nursing journal Mental Health Practice. Their research showed that althoughfor some people grieving is complete after the loss is accepted, for others "such events as the anniversary of a death or a scene that jogs the memory can send them slamming into grief again." Baier developed the pinball metaphor to help those in mourning "make sense of their chaotic experience and be prepared when grief is triggered or prolonged by other events."

The model may also be useful for anyone coping with loss, including separation or divorce, job layoffs, financial reversals, and even the normal life transitions of aging such as the empty nest and retirement.



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