Grief can arise from loss, whether large-scale or small, and may not be easily removed once it takes hold. Because of grief’s obstinate nature, many approaches have been developed in order to handle the repressive, and often painful, effects it can have on people’s lives. One of those approaches is Elizabeth Kübler-Ross’s theory, The Five Stages of Grief. In Sierra Skye Gemma’s essay, “The Wrong Way”, she juxtaposes her own personal experiences with grief against Kübler-Ross’s hypothesis. Gemma uses her confessional, combined with empirical evidence that contradicts the Five Stages of Grief, to demonstrate that feelings of grief are unique to the individual; therefore, there is no right way to mourn.
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Despite what the name suggests, however, Kübler-Ross admitted that grief is not necessarily a linear progression; some people experience stages more than once, in a different sequence, or not at all (14). Yet she also believed that “ ‘any natural, normal human being, when faced with any kind of loss, will go from shock all the way through acceptance’ ” (11). Her theory is not without criticism, though. Gemma mentions several scholars whose findings contrast with The Five Stages of Grief. One researcher in particular, George Bonanno, found that “individuals who have suffered a loss don’t necessarily even grieve” (20). For instance, Gemma did not grieve over her grandmother, because her “ ‘dad’s mom was a bitch’ ” (18). Under Kübler-Ross’s theory, Gemma’s lack of reaction could be classified as unnatural, or in other words, her way of grieving is “the wrong way”. However, if the objective of the Five Stages is to reach the acceptance stage, then it is unclear as to why Gemma would need to experience any other stage if she already accepted her grandmother’s death. This shows one major inconsistency in Kübler-Ross’s approach, one that Gemma critiques harshly.
Gemma’s primary contention seems to be that having defined stages of grief effectively tells people how they should and should not deal with a loss (17, 18). That, in effect, can be both dehumanizing and counterproductive. For example, after Gemma’s sister dies she continues to go to her classes. To Gemma’s