Caregiver Corner: Thinking Beyond the 5 Stages of Grief


If it’s okay with all of you, this week I’d like to switch gears and talk a little about my alternate role here at SourcePoint: Grief Support. I also want to take a quick pause right here if maybe you aren’t in the right headspace at the moment to discuss end-of-life topics — it’s more than okay to stop reading now if so. Everyone has different beliefs, sensitivities, and circumstances around tough discussions, and this is just a blanket disclaimer that they are all valid. Having said all that, I think if we are given the opportunity and a space to have an open dialogue about the death of a loved one, we set ourselves up for better outcomes in the days that follow. Caregivers have an especially difficult time because so much of their grieving tends to be done while their care receiver is still with us, as they come to the understanding that their relationship has already turned into something different than it once was.

That is why I am constantly in awe of the former caregivers who make it out to my existing grief support group every second Tuesday from 2-3 p.m. Month after month new and returning members get a chance to speak the names of their departed to people who haven’t gotten a chance to hear their stories. There’s something special about telling a not-quite stranger what a perfect day for mom looked like or how your husband had this ability to always know the right thing to say or the hidden talents you always envied of your sister. Every single person who has or will live possesses that one skill that nobody else in the world could hope to pull off with any amount of practice. Most people could learn Spanish or German or how to install a car engine if they have enough time and dedication to those subjects but I’m talking about those traits that just become an extension of somebody’s personality — the things that can’t be coached or picked up from a YouTube tutorial — human actions that can only be classified as magic. Like The Fonz punching a jukebox back to life.

Oftentimes we look to patterns to describe the thoughts and behaviors we experience (or think we should be experiencing) in the resulting days and months after a loss. Since the 1960’s social workers considered Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’s The Five Stages of Grief to be the foundational text for working through loss. However, while its significance can’t be overlooked it has been—like so many enduring works—misappropriated to cover really delicate ground its creator never even intended it to help navigate. The result has led to some potentially harmful “square-peg, round-hole” style of thinking but fortunately, many in the grief support community are coming to the same realization and have collectively made the push to eschew tradition and replace it with more room for individual expression.

That is why I would like to invite you or anyone in your life who has experienced the loss of a loved one to attend a free exploration of our grief through a new lens—several new lenses, actually. Once per week, for six weeks, beginning Wednesday, May 10th from 1:30-3:00 PM and lasting until June 14th you are invited to try “Thinking Beyond the 5 Stages.” Please take a moment to read the program description below to find out if something like this would be valuable at this time or in the future.

Thinking Beyond the 5 Stages – Wednesday, May 10-June 14, 1:30 p.m. – 3 p.m.

Move beyond the prescriptive definitions of “the 5 stages of grief” to a more descriptive interpretation. This six-week group seeks to challenge the idea that grieving, to be considered productive, must end with accepting one’s loss. Working together, we will instead seek out an alternate form of moving on that involves growing more as a complete person—a person whose experiences with their departed loved one continues to inform their thoughts and actions. In this group, we will examine short and digestible scholarly essays, contemporary opinion pieces, and existentialist philosophy that has stood the test of time with different (sometimes even conflicting) definitions of grief.”

Over the course of 6 weeks, we will respectfully view portrayals of how certain cultures retain their attachment to dead relatives, what modern thought leaders and movements have informed our understanding of mortality, voices from the past in the form of history’s great thinkers and painters, thought-provoking works of short fiction, and even our own dreams (which can sometimes tell us more about our waking life than we could otherwise figure out on our own). The choice is yours to attend in person or online, thanks to our easy-to-use OWL technology which allows for both experiences to feel just as immersive.

Oh, and since you now have my permission to get as spooky as you’d like, why not check out some of these related learning opportunities being presented by my teammates and the experts they have enlisted? Just as there is no one correct way to grieve, none of us can be 100% certain about what really happens when the candle goes out. Moments of Grace is a series of discussions led by Linda Manley, CNP, who brings a lifetime of experience as an emergency nurse and the stories her patients have described after surviving near-death experiences, those moments where it feels like the dead are physically with us, and even the surreal end-of-life visions reported by hospice patients as they wait out their last few hours. After Death Communications & Nearing Death Awareness are featured in our general $15 Education Packet, which guarantees your spot for many other topics such as history, technology, economics, and personal health. Check in with our Arts & Education Manager Joan Pearse at (740) 203-2410 or if you have any questions.

Have a good day and don’t hesitate to reach out if you’d like someone to walk with you through a caregiver dilemma or if you think one of the ideas I listed here might come in handy on your own grief journey.

Brian Fox is the caregiver program coordinator at SourcePoint. Learn more at or call 740-363-6677.

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