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Healing 2.0: Life After Loss

Hidden Brain

Hidden Brain Media

Science, Arts, Social Sciences, Performing Arts

4.639.3K Ratings

🗓️ 13 November 2023

⏱️ 49 minutes

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You've probably heard that people who lose a loved one may go through what are known as the "five stages" of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. But many people find that their grief doesn't follow this model at all. In the latest installment of our Healing 2.0 series, we revisit our 2022 conversation with resilience researcher Lucy Hone. Lucy shares the techniques she learned to cope after a devastating loss in her own life.

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This is Hidden Brain. I'm Shankar Vedantam.


In the 1960s, the psychologist Elizabeth Kubler Ross was studying patients with terminal illnesses.


She noticed a pattern as they came to terms with their mortality.


The patients seem to go through different psychological phases.


Elizabeth Kubler Ross eventually classified these phases into what she called the five stages of grief, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.


The five stages were intuitively appealing and offered people a way to understand a complex experience.


Very quickly, the simplicity of this framework began to seep into popular culture


books TV shows and later countless YouTube videos


Your mind is protecting you by completely denying the reality.


Numbness may follow its nature's way of letting you deal only with your emotions that you're capable of handling. As often happens, a system that was designed to be descriptive became prescriptive.


The five stages, translated into popular culture, morphed into a model that told people they


should expect to feel certain emotions and that their experience of grief would be a journey


from one stage to the next.


Finally, five is acceptance.


It's the fifth stage, and this is the end game here,


and it is the result of all the stages of your grief.


Over time, the five-stage model of grief became so ingrained in people's minds that new


insights, based on rigorous research, did not get as much airtime.


For decades, the popular understanding of what we feel when we grieve was largely drawn


from the five stages model.


Anyone who's ever been bereaved will know that people tell you about them, they expect you to go through them, and pretty quickly I became frustrated with them because I don't want to be told


what I'm going to feel. I am desperate to know what I can do to help us all adapt to this terrible loss.


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