After reading Kubler-Ross’s On Life after Death, I must say, it’s definitely opened my eyes to a new perspective, and made me realize, that I too, will leave this earth one day. Kubler-Ross was the first in her playing field to open up the subject matter of death. She was able to bring about her ways of ideas through her seminars on what life, death, and transition is. In her counseling of and research on dying patients, Kubler-Ross brings about five stages of dying that an individual experiences when they leave their cocoon. These five stages are denial/isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
I think many different individuals can benefit from reading this book, no matter who you are and no matter what your profession is. In this book, Kubler-Ross has mini chapters that are basically a discussion with patients and clients to express the key issues surrounding their illness, where some of the patients know they are certain they will die, and this is where Kubler-Ross exercises one to one therapy to assist throughout the process. A few different topics come up throughout the book about incurably sick patients, near death experiences, and incomplete business.
I remember when my grandma passed away, prior to her dying, she’d been through several open heart surgeries, a leg amputation, Parkinson’s disease, and a tremendous amount of stress. Everyone in the family observed and just watched my grandma as she went through Kubler-Ross’s stages. Before something else would arise with my grandma, you can just tell she was in denial about whatever was next to happen. Everyone in the family was very down and out, especially my mom, and she was the strongest one and was the one to take care of my grandmas the most.
But she would never let my grandma see her upset; she’d wait until she got home before she cried. Kubler-Ross mentions that it is usually a temporary guard and will eventually be able to reach the stage of acceptance (p. 21). Kubler-Ross points out that when you are angry, it can’t really be sugar coated. And when you have an upset or angry individual in a family, it will make its rounds and the mood will just linger amongst those that are there. During this time it’s important to be very liberal to the way others feel. The process of being open-minded to others will aid in expressing the wishes of the dying patient.
I now understand that in more cases than not, the rationale for dying is connected with bargaining for more time. Bargaining, which is one of Kubler-Ross’s (5) stages, is when the individual thinks that if they would have done something differently, God would have given him/her more time to live. I feel we can learn a lot from this section in our day-to-day lives. We all ask ourselves if only and if we are struck with an illness, would we fight for the time we have and try to make it worthwhile. If we did not live with such suffering, like my grandmother had, we may lead different lives.
The ways each person individually lives him/her life may be focused on materialistic values or it can be of faith in who we are and faith in God. I do believe that when any individual comes into contact with going through someone passing, it’s ok to be upset, and it’s expected for one to suffer from a heightened state of depression. As human beings, we can make a decision to let that depression take charge of us, or we can choose to accept death. To resolve most conflicts in our lives when we are dying is when we are able to accept the unavoidable events that transpire.
It’s very important to be able to come to some terms of agreement with events that happen in our lives not just when death occurs, but also in our day to day lives in this world. If nothing is absorbed in one’s mind after reading these short essays in this book, you will learn to take what each day brings as a new day starts, and to live for the moment. My mom always tells me to not take things for granite, be grateful, because we never know when it’s our time to go, and that God brought us into this world, and he can take you out.
I think this book mentions several personal stories, which is a good thing because whoever is reading the book has the ability to identify with the experiences. The book gives you an opportunity to become stronger reading about others experiences as you go through unforeseen events in your own life. One example from the book is the mother whose husband left her with the needy children, and she struggled with the word “retarded”, and tried to understand the purpose of having a child that was like a vegetable. She goes through several stages with God, and then finds a true meaning to have the child.
She identifies herself with her child and talks to her godmother, and she writes a poem, titled “To My Godmother” (p. 23). The poems express the mother’s feelings of acceptance and her will to continue with her life even though she had a very needy child. An individual that is experiencing similar experiences may read this book and feel comforted in reading the poem, knowing that if someone else could show such strength and hope during hardship then they can as well.
These readings clearly can be therapeutic to clients who are experiencing and dealing with these issues in their own lives. However, this book presents a weakness in that Kubler-Ross can at times display a mixed tone that may come across as her showing more empathy in one story and more clinical in others. I think this book can be woven into psychotherapy a few different ways. The therapist could implement different parts of the book as reflection exercises for clients. Some experiences shared in this book can help clients gain insight into their feelings as they face dying either themselves or through some else’s experience.
As mentioned previously, this book will have you taking one day at a time, and dealing with what each day brings as it comes. Kubler-Ross was an innovator in her field and opened the doors to communicating about death. I learned that death is a process and mostly filled with grief, and when loved ones are suffering from an illness, or whatever the case may be, we need to be aware of Kubler-Ross’s five stages as the individual goes through them, and think about how it is going to have an effect on us in the process.