The 5 Stages of Coping

24 Jan
Red sunset

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I think one trademark of us humans is our ability to cope. Whenever we lose something (a job or a marriage) or someone (loved one or a family member) and are devastated, we undergo the process of coping. According to

The five stages of the Kübler-Ross stage model are the best-known description of the emotional and psychological responses that many people experience when faced with a life-threatening illness or life-changing situation. These stages don’t only apply to loss as a result of death but may also occur in someone who experience a different life-changing event such as a divorce or loss of a job.

These stages are not meant to be complete or chronological. Not everyone who experiences a life-threatening or life-changing event feels all five of the responses nor will everyone who does experience them do so in the order that is written. Reactions to illness, death, and loss are as unique as the person experiencing them.

The five stages of coping with dying were described by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her classic book On Death and Dying in 1969. The stages have been abbreviated as DABDA and stand for:

Denial. You can’t accept it. You know how people react when told of bad news? They’re stunned. They get cold hands and feet. Oftentimes, the only thing they can say is: “No! That can’t be!” Denial.

Anger. You fell angry. Sometimes the anger is towards another person or a circumstance. It could be anger towards  something that took your something/someone away. Other times, you fell angry at yourself. “Why did I let it happen?”

Bargaining. You offer something in exchange. Some say “Of all the bad people in the world, why him?” or “Bakit ikaw pa? Sana ako nalang!” (Why does it have to be you? I wish it was me!”)

Depression. All is lost. You can’t eat. You can’t function normally. Nothing makes sense. For you, the world has stopped and lost its meaning.

Acceptance. You let go. This can take years. Some don’t even reach this stage. They just cycle with the 4 stages and just can’t let go.

The only comfort we have in times like this is to know that everything happens for a reason (Romans 8:28, The Holy Bible) and that there is life after death. I’d like to share a piece of Dream Theater’s song The Spirit Carries On.

“Move on, be brave
Don’t weep at my grave
Because I am no longer here
But please never let
Your memory of me disappear”

“If I die tomorrow
I’d be all right
Because I believe
That after we’re gone
The spirit carries on…”


One Response to “The 5 Stages of Coping”

  1. Judy Marie Santiago February 8, 2011 at 10:44 am #

    I remember this back in college, when we had Personality class. Haha. And I sometimes think the process happens not in stages but in random order. LOL After all, yeah, we should believe that God’s plans are way far better than ours, and so we should put our trust in him and just accept whatever he gives us. 😀

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