From Infancy to Late Adulthood, then the Stages of Dying

Photo Credit:  By Dr. Monique M. Chouraeshkenazi 

Photo Credit:

By Dr. Monique M. Chouraeshkenazi 

       I watched my grandfather die of lung cancer. In 1997, I spent the summer with my aunt, uncle, and cousins (something I did every year) and when I came back to start ninth grade, that is when reality hit. I was greeted to a sickly, thinner man who had patches of hair missing. I asked my grandmother what happened and she said that he was sick and doctors did not know the diagnosis. I believe she knew at the time, but did not want to tell me (obvious loss of hair was due to chemotherapy). He did not last much longer. I started ninth grade in September, he was in the hospital by November, and died on January 16, 1998.

            Based on Kubler-Ross’s five psychological stages of dying, I find her theoretical model to be accurate from my personal experience. My grandmother, sister, and I lived my grandfather and so his death hit close. In hindsight, I believe we all experienced the following: denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance (I know I did). Everyone’s experience is different.  However, Jennings, Gemmill, Bohman, and Lamb (n.d.). argued that Kubler-Ross psychological theory has received much criticism due to the following:

  • There exists no real evidence that stages are present in coping with death
  • There is no evidence that people coping with their impending death move through all stages one through five 
  • The limitations on the method of research employed by Rubler-Ross have not been adequately considered 
  • The stage theory tends to prescribe rather describe 
  • A person’s whole life may be overlooked in favor of the stages they are supposed to be going through 
  • Environmental factors play a role (para. 4). 

With much criticism, one can only contemplate whether a theory based on death can be theoretically applied or even compared to the loss of a job or divorce. But in this circumstance, I believe it is possible that people can go through these stages. Dean of Education and Social Services, Darrin Campen discussed how this theory does not only apply to death, but events such as cheating scandals and traumatic events (Campen, 2009). He also discussed how 9/11 affected victims and their families, which experienced all or some of these stages. As I have seen in the news, there are individuals who cannot cope with losing a job or getting a divorce and it has resulted in murder, which those affected can go through the theoretical stages. For example, in 2010, Amy Bishop was denied tenure at the University of Alabama in Huntsville and as a result, killed three and injured three of her colleagues. In 2017, Todd Smith killed his wife, Katrina Smith, for having an affair and wanting a divorce. Traumatic and disheartening events can cause psychological matters, which can be compared to Kubler-Ross’s theory on the stages of dying. And as I mentioned before, I believe each individual experience is different and determines whether all stages are experienced, some, or none. 

Notification of death

        There seems to be a notification about death, but no one talks about it. It can be too painful to discuss in the moment, but in the future, there still limited conversation-- more of reminisce and memories. In the twenty-first century, death is more of an open topic, especially since there has been so many traumatic events within the United States (i.e. terrorism, active shootings, the war on drugs/overdoses, etc.) that have resulted in many deaths. Clark (2014) discussed how not talking about death can have an impact on the “death experience” (para. 3). He stated those who have loved ones who are sick and/or dying look to healthcare professional to discuss the topic of dying, which can leave those not getting the care they need (Clark, 2014, para. 4). I did not think about those dying or have died may have needed some type of communication or assurance before they left this Earth.

Criticisms of the Kubler-ross's theory

        Understanding that her [Kubler-Ross] work was predicated on her experiences on researching dying people, I believe such deeds were recommended to the bereaved because the experiences can be similar (death and caring for the dying). In hindsight, watching my grandfather die and then grieving his death, I found to be the same feeling—going through the same phases, probably repeating some of those phases as well. A government agent in Australia stated that even though everyone does not experience the same type of grief, they can experience such grief like the feeling of death, especially when the person being cared for has a life limiting condition (n.d., para. 1). As a teenager, not only was his death close to home but the first death and funeral I attended, so it was a weird and uncomfortable feeling, which started my reaction to death and how I handle it. People go through them- maybe all [psychological stages of dying], maybe some, but it all about each person’s experience.


Clark, D. (2014). Open and honest conversations about death and dying – by Richard Meade. University of Glasgow. Retrieved from (accessed on 27 March 2018). 

D. Campen. (2009, October 23). Death & Dying. [YouTube through APUS Resources]. Retrieved from (accessed on 24 March 2018). 

“Grief before Death- understanding Anticipatory Grief.” (n.d.). Health Direct. Retrieved from (accessed on 30 March 2018). 

Jennings, B., Gemmill, C., Bohman, B., & Lamb, K. (n.d.). Kubler-Ross and other approaches. University of Kentucky. Retrieved from (accessedon 24 March 2018).