Most people are probably familiar with the five stages of dying (sometimes also known as the five stages of grief). Elizabeth Kubler-Ross originally conceived of these as the stages that a dying patient may experience when he finds out that he is dying.  She theorized that some people may not pass through all the stages, and others may pass through them in a different order. Some may get ‘stuck’ in a particular stage, while others may vacillate between two or three stages for a time. Overall, they represent the emotional process of coming to terms with one’s death.

Briefly, the stages Kubler-Ross identified are:

1- Denial: It isn’t true. This is some kind of mistake.

2- Anger: Why is this happening to me? It’s not Fair!

3- Bargaining: I promise I’ll be a better person if I can just live through this!

4- Depression: I just don’t care about anything anymore.

5- Acceptance: I’m ready for whatever may come.[i]


In some ways, when reality does not meet your expectations, whether is it expectations for yourself, for someone else, or for the world, it is like a ‘little death.’ It is the death of the life you wanted and the future you imagined. And that death must be grieved. So you go through a similar emotional process involving some or all of the stages of dying. In time, you are ready to accept reality as it is, as opposed to how you wanted it to be.


[i] Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, On Death and Dying, Macmillan, NY, 1969.


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