Many years ago, Dr. Kübler-Ross first quantified for us the five stages of grief. People generally go through these five stages whenever there is some kind of tragedy or difficult situation that is faced in life. I spent a good bit of time studying the different views and thoughts concerning this topic when I was working on my doctoral degree in my Psychology and Counseling classes.
In case you are not familiar with them, they are:
Stage 1: Denial – A refusal to accept what has happened. Denial is the shock absorber of the soul. “This can’t be happening to me!” “Oh no – this is all wrong!” This is a defense mechanism that protects us from going into shock or perhaps experiencing a heart attack or stroke. Initially, denial gives us an opportunity to get back on our feet and regain our balance.
Stage 2: Anger – “This is just not fair!” “Why is this happening to me!?” This anger can either be turned outward toward someone who has hurt us or deceived us, or this anger can turn inward toward our own self for being so blind and not seeing what was about to happen.
Stage 3: Bargaining or Negotiating – “Oh God, if you will just not let this happen…if you will just get me through this situation…I promise that I will…” This is another attempt to avoid the consequences or postpone the inevitable.
Stage 4: Sadness or Depression – The reality of the situation finally settles in on the mind. This is the stage that says: “I can’t do anything to stop this – so what’s the point?” or “This really did happen and now my heart is broken.”
Stage 5: Acceptance – “I can live with this. I will learn from this.” “Life goes on.” Reality is accepted. This is where you learn and grow as a person. Peace, resolution, and new direction can truly start to come at this stage.
These five stages do not necessarily come to us in consecutive order. They often overlap each other and sometimes the order is shuffled. We may experience Stage 2 before Stage 1 or skip to Stage 4 and then back to Stage 3. It is not always a nice, neat package.
While these stages apply to the grieving process, I believe they apply to other areas of life and success as well. In fact, I believe we experience them in normal, everyday life. Would you like a simple example? Have you ever been stuck in traffic? In that scenario, the five stages might look like this:
Stage 1: Denial “I can’t believe this! Why is there so much traffic this morning?”
Stage 2: Anger “Why don’t people just DRIVE and get to where they are going?” Or “I should have left home earlier! I could have avoided all of this!”
Stage 3: Bargaining “I’ll just go around everybody. I’ll exit here and see if there is a shortcut I can take.”
Stage 4: Sadness/Depression “I feel so badly because I’m going to be late to work and everybody will be waiting on me. They are counting on me being on time.”
Stage 5: Acceptance “Traffic seems like it is starting to move now. I guess I will be there in a little while. Next time I will do better!”
See what I mean? That is a simple example, but I believe when you understand those five stages and what is going on in your life, it will help you in everything you do.
This week I would encourage you to write down these 5 stages on a 3 x 5 card and keep them with you. Then, when you are going through an experience, you can pull out the card and see where you are in the process. You will find guidance and direction as you review the stages, and it will reduce the stress in your life. Those five stages are meant for our help, benefit, and success. Allow them to encourage your life this week and let them take you through to acceptance in all that you do!
Tip: Remember the 5 stages of grief…I mean success!
Have a great week! God bless you!
Dr. Robert A. Rohm