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Don’t be a hero… dealing with a loss or losses!

When we think of heroes; Firefighters and Police usually come to mind. There are also those men and women who dedicate their lives to helping others in the medical field and the individual who stops to help just because. Oh and don’t forget those who serve and protect our great country! They all have something in common, that being they never know if the person they are about to help will survive.

We professionals are expected to be able to handle the stress of trauma and death day in and day out. So we teach ourselves to bury it deep inside and not think about it if we can not effectively process through the emotional issues. Until one day it becomes overwhelming!

I know this to be true... because it happened to me! Now the question is, how does one deal with it?

In an attempt to answer this question we need to look at a pioneer in the support and counseling of personal trauma, grief and grieving, associated with death and dying is Dr Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. She also dramatically improved the understanding and practices in relation to bereavement and hospice care.

Her ideas, notably the five stages of grief model (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance), are transferable to varying degrees and in different ways, to personal change and emotional upset resulting from factors other than death and dying.

We can often very clearly observe similar reactions to those explained by Kübler-Ross's grief model in people confronted with far less serious traumas than death and bereavement, such as by work redundancy, enforced relocation, crime and punishment, disability and injury, relationship break-up, financial despair and bankruptcy, etc.

This makes the model worthy of study and reference far outside of death and bereavement. The 'grief cycle' is actually a 'change model' for helping to understand and deal with (and counsel) personal reaction to trauma. It's not just for death and dying.

This is because trauma and emotional shock are relative in terms of effect on people. While death and dying are for many people the ultimate trauma, people can experience similar emotional upsets when dealing with many of life's challenges, especially if confronting something difficult for the first time, and/or if the challenge happens to threaten an area of psychological weakness, which we all possess in different ways.

Death, as life itself, means different things to different people.

Take from this what is helpful, and encourage others to treat this information in the same manner.

One person's despair (a job-change or exposure to risk or phobia, etc) is to another person not threatening at all. Some people love snakes and climbing mountains, whereas to others these are intensely scary things. Emotional response, and trauma, must be seen in relative not absolute terms. The model helps remind us that the other person's perspective is different to our own, whether we are the one in shock, or the one helping another to deal with their upset.

The study of death and dying is actually known as thanatology (from the Greek word 'thanatos' meaning death). Elisabeth Kübler-Ross is accordingly sometimes referred to as a thanatologist, and she is considered to have contributed significantly to the creation of the genre of thanatology itself.

Kübler-Ross was a catalyst. She opened up and challenged previously conservative (sweep it under the carpet, don't discuss it, etc) theories and practices relating to death and bereavement, and received an enormously favorable response among caregivers, the dying and the bereaved, which perhaps indicates the level of denial and suppression that had earlier characterized conventional views about the subject - particularly in the western world, where death is more of a taboo than in certain other cultures.

As stated, and important to emphasize, Kübler-Ross's five stages of grief model was developed initially as a model for helping dying patients to cope with death and bereavement, however the concept also provides insight and guidance for coming to terms with personal trauma and change, and for helping others with emotional adjustment and coping, whatever the cause. This has probably helped her ideas to spread and to enter 'mainstream' thinking.

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross and her ideas have now become synonymous with emotional response to trauma, and to grief support and counseling, much like Maslow is fundamentally associated with motivational theory and Kolb with learning styles.

As with much other brilliant pioneering work, the Kübler-Ross model is elegantly simple. The five stages of grief model is summarized and interpreted below.

Please look at the website, which enables and sustains Dr Kübler-Ross's values and mission, and extends help to those who need it.

five stages of grief - Elisabeth Kübler Ross

1 - Denial

Denial is a conscious or unconscious refusal to accept facts, information, reality, etc., relating to the situation concerned. It's a defense mechanism and perfectly natural. Some people can become locked in this stage when dealing with a traumatic change that can be ignored. Death of course is not particularly easy to avoid or evade indefinitely.

2 - Anger

Anger can manifest in different ways. People dealing with emotional upset can be angry with themselves, and/or with others, especially those close to them. Knowing this helps keep detached and non-judgmental when experiencing the anger of someone who is very upset.

3 - Bargaining

Traditionally the bargaining stage for people facing death can involve attempting to bargain with whatever God the person believes in. People facing less serious trauma can bargain or seek to negotiate a compromise. For example "Can we still be friends?.." when facing a

break-up. Bargaining rarely provides a sustainable solution, especially if it's a matter of life or death.

4 - Depression

Also referred to as preparatory grieving. In a way it's the dress rehearsal or the practice run for the 'aftermath' although this stage means different things depending on whom it involves. It's a sort of acceptance with emotional attachment. It's natural to feel sadness and regret, fear,

uncertainty, etc. It shows that the person has at least begun to accept the reality.

5 - Acceptance

Again this stage definitely varies according to the person's situation, although broadly it is an indication that there is some emotional detachment and objectivity. People dying can enter this stage a long time before the people they leave behind, who must necessarily pass through their own individual stages of dealing with the grief.

(The above information is based on the Grief Cycle model first published in On Death & Dying, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, 1969. Interpretation by Alan Chapman 2006-2013.)

How do you plan on dealing with any of life’s situations that were mention above? One way maybe to learn lifesaving skills that may help you in a live threatening situation.

To be safe your best bet is to consult with experts that will teach you life savings skills like CPR, how to use an AED and first Aid training. C & A Safety Consultants has over 30 years experience in working with business, government agencies, schools, churches, and youth groups, camps (day and sleepaway). Group CPR and safety classes are available too.

C & A Safety Consultants is located in Southern California.

C & A Safety can be reached at: or by telephone: 805-750-0915

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