Human life is limited in time, and this fact can be painful to realize. Kubler-Ross’ theory about stages of dying describes the feelings of a dying person and divides emotional changes into five stages – denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance (Santrock, 2020). If the dying people and their surroundings understand such emotions, they can facilitate help and comfort. Although people live with the awareness of death, they often avoid its discussion and sometimes even deny it, therefore its nearing can be shocking.
The Kubler-Ross theory summarizes the experience that dying people get. The denial and isolation stage involves shock and disbelief that the death will occur. The first stage is replaced by anger, characterized by rage, envy for those who will continue to live, and similar feelings. The third stage, bargaining, includes the hope that death will not occur if a person does something, for example, turn to God. Bargaining is replaced by depression when a person realizes the inevitability of death and feels grief. The final stage of acceptance involves gaining peace and submission to the future.
The discussed theory has its weaknesses and strengths, determining its value. In particular, independent studies have not proven the sequence of the described stages. Moreover, the condition characterized in the stages can be influenced by additional factors – the patient’s situation, the level of support received, and relationships with others (Santrock, 2020). Nevertheless, its advantage is in drawing attention to the emotional state of dying. Perceiving stages not as an exact and inevitable process but as potential responses to death may help choose an appropriate strategy to communicate with a dying person.
For dying people, communication with loved ones may become even more critical than before, but their interlocutors need to choose the appropriate communication strategy. For example, it is vital to support a dying person in the expression of any feelings. The interlocutor of a dying individual can express their love and not be afraid to say goodbye. If the dying person has little energy, surrounding people should not tire them, for example, by an extended visit. Moreover, in a difficult situation, a person may seek loneliness and have no desire to talk, and it is necessary to understand and support these aspirations and make another appointment. Thus, sensitivity to the emotions of dying people can bring them some comfort and support.
Santrock, J. W. (2020). A topical approach to life-span development (10th ed.). McGraw Hill Education.