Week 3: Kubler-Ross Is Full Of Crap

Ok, that’s not entirely true. Kubler-Ross did a lot of great things for the understanding of grief, for example, making it part of the conversation in a way that was understandable to most people. For those of you who don’t know who Kubler-Ross is, a quick introduction: she was a psychiatrist, who in 1969, published a book based on the interviews of hundreds of people titled “On Death And Dying.” See, grief has only been a talked-about part of human psyche for a few decades, and this is largely – if not solely – due to the work of Kubler-Ross. In the book, she introduces the idea of the Stages of Grief (see chart below), and uses them as a way to understand what emotional cycle people experience when they suffer a loss. There is a lot of really good information in what she brings forth, but where she went terribly wrong, was making the stages of grief a linear concept. Even the idea that someone might slip back into the previous stage momentarily prior to moving forward, is a misconception. But it’s what we know. It’s what we understand. It’s easy to understand….unfortunately, grief and emotion are none of those things – there is nothing linear about us.

The week three meeting of the Parent’s Group centered on learning about the grief process. It was the first meeting where we actually started to move in a direction of understanding, instead of the necessary but difficult introductions. Now, let it be known that the meetings are not a lecture or educational platform. Each one has an agenda and direction, but the conversation often moves in different directions depending on the needs of the group on any particular night. And just because the first two weeks are behind us, it doesn’t mean that so are the emotionally challenging moments – for those happen all throughout each and every meeting.

Also, the third week offered Ahna and I something very special: a chance to reunite for the first time since leaving the hospital with someone that was absolutely instrumental to us while we were there. Vanessa is a Chaplain in the hospital, and while we were very fortunate to receive the help and services of that entire department, Vanessa is one person that we connected with the most….one of many extraordinary people that walked with us. Vanessa was our ‘guest facilitator’ for the third week’s meeting, and it was an absolute pleasure to reconnect with her.

During the meeting, we were introduced to something that is an alternate understanding of the stages of grief called the Grief Wheel (see below). The simple design – the idea that it’s never ending, that it’s an alternate trajectory, that there are built-in understandings of slippage between all of the places, and that there is a before and after that are different – really connected with me in a way that the traditional models never have. I would make one modification to the drawing, and instead of it being two-dimensional, I would make it look more like a spiral where the ‘before loss’ and ‘after loss’ parts of life never intersect.

When we look at this, we recognize that there really isn’t a stage to this process. While we would probably associate pretty strongly with one particular part of this wheel, I would also offer that at any given moment on any given day, you could find us in any part of this circle. And even though we may generally be in one area, there are feelings/emotions/descriptions from each other part that we also deal with on a daily basis. I think that we are finding that as time is moving forward, with or without our permission, there are actually aspects of grieving that become harder and more influential. The holidays are upon us (group week seven discussion), and Liam’s birthday is only a few weeks away. I wouldn’t be surprised if this wheel starts spinning a lot faster in the near future.


  1. We still think about all of you everyday, and we hope that the support group helps you find some healing. Sending you lots of extra love during the next few months.

  2. Sarah Leonard says:

    Oren and Ahna, thank you again for continuing to share this with us. You allow us (me) to be part of your journey in a way that is humbling and appreciated. Much love to both of you as you move through the holidays and Liam’s birthday.

  3. Sandi Hernandez says:

    I think the advice your dad.gave me when we were there with Dylan was the best. He is truly a blessing.

  4. Insightful about the wheel – I do remember learning K-R in high school right before it became too relevant for me, but the wheel is certainly more human, the spiral even moreso. Interesting – when I went through counseling years back, Dr. G likened the healing process to that spiral – walking up several flights of stairs. You spiral back around to the view of, say, a tree to the west over and over again, but the angle/view is always different, always new. Even when it feels like we’re going backwards, we are really revisiting that place from a new path, no matter how familiar.
    You remain in our prayers….loveyoumeanit…

  5. The prayers continue as I prepare for my evening devotions!!

  6. We see deep truth in your thoughts and words. Our experience has been that grief is neither linear or circular — it just is…….we have found that dealing with grief and loss is a continuous effort with ups and downs, with waves that come and go, and unexpected surprises that move you from one feeling to another. It pains us beyond words that this has been thrust upon you — All our love, Mom and Dad

  7. Hold on to each other and the grief – no matter whether linear, circular or what – walking together, crying and listening give us strength, ultimately to keep putting one foot in front of the other. You are held in the arms of our Loving Creator and all who have been part of this process.

  8. Carole Malezija says:

    I agree the grief process is not linear. As I have worked with many, many people in grief I have watched some of them walk the journey for 10+ years, we talk about their new normal, if there is such a thing as normal.Blessings to your family during this season, as you continue the journey. Thanks for sharing such a profound part of your familys life.

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