Elizabeth’s childhood treatment by her father was said to be very harsh ,which might explain why she was concerned by peoples suffering ,and her experiences at the end of the second world war including the aftermath of Majdanek –concentration camp in Poland ,and very soon after she was well known for her work with the terminally ill and her ideas soon came in to counselling and support for people effected by death and bereavement .
She challenged previous conservative theories ,and was welcomed by carers ,and the dying and bereaved as many western people saw death as a taboo subject where as other cultures did not see death as such a taboo . Critics have tended to appauled her model as vague and others have had mixed responses to her interest in the after life ,and her study of Thanatollog which is a Greek work for death and means the study of death and dying .
She has written over twenty books and her book in 1969 called death and dying was revolutionary as it did reflect her bold and unspoken approach . It was Elizabeth’s work with dying individuals which led her to develop a five stage model for coping with terminal illness , the five stages are –denial ,anger,bargaining ,depression and acceptance . Today many professionals have adapted this model . her model does imply that all dying people go through the stages and in the same order and acceptance is an essential part of the process.
She also conclude in her theory that women are more likely to go through the five stages of grief than men , however most people go through at least two . First there will be the initial shock of the news ,and a person may not show any physical symptoms at this stage as internally they have frozen the news out and have not yet taken a hold of what has happened , telling a person several times helps ,external symptoms can be paling of he skin ,shortness of breath and fight or flight reaction. After the initial shock a person may be in denial this is where a person may close their eye s to what is being told to them and pretend nothing has happened ,they will continue to carry on doing their job , and classic behaviour will be “ flight in to health “ where previous problems are suddenly seen as fixed by themselves ,they are trying to avoid the inevitable .
Getting stuck in denial is common in “ cool “ cultures ,ie Britian . A person can suddenly swing into anger ,bottled up feelings can come up and “ why me” may be repeated in their heads and “ why not you “ fuels the anger even more ,supporting the anger and accepting it helps the person and just letting them be angry ,and also channelling the anger in to useful channels with help .
After the fires of anger have been burnt out the next stage is bargaining , it is an expression of hope that the bad news is reversible , this is a time when false hope should not be given though ,and support instead . Depression is when the news now starts to sink in and the person slumps in to a slough of despond , they turn towards themselves and turn away from help , and may start blaming themselves not others or the situation .
Finally the person is back to reality when they are at the acceptance stage , this is where the person is ready to move on ,acceptance is visible by people taking ownership for themselves again and their own actions , in this stage many will appear more content as they find their way forward in life again , people at this stage are at the completion of the transition. Elizabeth did not wish her process to become rigid steps , she intended it to be a framework , a guide as such ,as some steps may not be visited ,and others may be revisited ,as people s experiences of grief and trauma are all individual .
Elizabeth also recognized that people have to pass through their own grief journey in order for acceptance to happen and enable them to cope , having an understanding of what is happening and our emotions makes dealing with it much easier. The mourning process may last for months or years ,intense symptoms of emotional distress generally lasts between six and twelve months ,however if morning is not complete growth ,and development can not take place and complications can develop .
Similar reactions can be observed in people confronted with far less trauma than death and bereavement, such as crime , relocation ,disability ,injury ,breakups ,so it is a model that can not only be for people suffering with death and dying but also trauma ,as trauma and emotional shock are relative in terms of effect on people , life challenges cause similar emotional upset , but one persons personal trauma will not be another person’s personal trauma .