In her 1969 book On Death and Dying, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross described the five stages of grief as Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. If you’ve been given a diagnosis of infertility, suffered the loss of a pregnancy or baby, or you’ve reached a point in your life where you realize that motherhood just isn’t on the cards, odds are you’re all too familiar with these five stages.
Have you ever caught yourself saying some of these things?
“This can’t be happening to me?” “I’m perfectly healthy; what do you mean my tubes are blocked?” “I’m only 38; I’m too young to be infertile.” “I’m 42; there’s still time.”
That’s the Denial talking.
“It’s not fair.” “Why me?” “She doesn’t deserve to be a mother.” “Why is there no logic to the way blessings are handed out?”
That would be the Anger Stage.
How about: “I’ll just try this one last thing and then I’ll stop.” “If I can just relax, I know it will happen.” “If I lower my expectations, maybe I’ll meet someone worthy of being the father of my children.”
“If I can’t be a mother, what’s the point of me?” “I must have done something to bring this on myself.” “No one understands what I’m going through. I feel so alone.”
“It’s going to be okay.” “So, you don’t always get what you want. At least I have my health/husband/career/golden retriever.”
This is at least the start of Acceptance.
As Kübler-Ross pointed out, the stages don’t always happen in this order, or in any logical sequence at all. May you got stuck in anger for a long time and skipped the bargaining all together, or maybe you went straight to acceptance, only to slip on one of life’s banana peels and end up right back in depression.
The thing is, it’s okay, it’s normal, and it won’t last forever.
Kübler -Ross applied her theory to death. In this situation, some people struggle with death until the end. Some psychologists believe that the harder a person fights death, the more likely they will be to stay in the denial stage, and the less likely they are to die in a dignified way.
Unlike someone facing death, we have somewhere to go after our losses. We have the chance for a new, if different, life. And while going through the five stages can be ugly and unpleasant, the key is to come out the other end with our dignity intact.