Influential Theory About Our Psychological Reaction To Death And Dying From A Psychiatrist, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

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As we reach the end of the human life span, we all face the issue of death. The most influential theory about our psychological reaction to death and dying is from a psychiatrist, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. Based on extensive interviews of people who were dying, Dr. Kübler-Ross developed a five stage theory to describe our response to the news of imminent death. The stages include denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Although well-respected and clearly a pioneer in the field, the theory has limitations and has drawn some criticism.

Consider the following scenario:

In early March of 2005, Ardell was diagnosed with lung cancer and was told that she had about 6 months to live. At first Ardell told her friends that she felt fine and she thought the doctor was wrong. She sought out the opinion of a few other doctors, all of whom confirmed the original prognosis. Ardell became angry. She lashed out at her friends and expressed jealousy about their healthy state. About a month later her anger subsided and Ardell found herself in a state of deep depression. She didn’t want to see any of her friends – she just wanted to be alone. Her friends tried to reach out to her, visiting her at home. But when they dropped by, Ardell would get angry, again expressing jealousy and rage over their enviable state of good health. After a fit of anger, she would often apologize to her friends and tell them that her anger was from her fear. This vacillation between anger, depression, and fear seemed to continue until her final days. Ardell passed away in October, about 7 months after her initial diagnosis.

Analyze Ardell’s experience as described in the scenario. In what way was Ardell’s reaction to the news of her impending death inconsistent with the Elisabeth Kübler-Ross stages of death and dying? Make sure you include limitations of the theory in your discussion.


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