Thursday, April 9, 2009

Thursday Therapeutic Thought


This week's Thought will piggyback off last week's when I discussed grief. Hopefully you've started thinking more about secondary losses and how these play into your character's reactions as they grieve on the page.

Today, we'll look at the traditional "stages" of grief. Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross was the one to coin these, so I can't take credit. :)

The first traditional stage is Denial. Once the initial shock wears off, the character (or real life person) would pretend they hadn't just been given horrible news. A lot of times, they will just go back to work like nothing happened. This is really just avoidance behavior, trying to put off the inevitable.

The second stage is Anger. Whoever gets in the way here will likely be to blame. This can be explosive like a active volcano or simmering like lava. People will often question, "Why me?" and what they aren't saying is "Why not you?" They will be angry at anyone not affected by their tragedy, angry at God for allowing it to happen, angry at the deceased loved one for dying. Sky's the limit on how this might be manifested.

Third stage is Bargaining. This is when the character might seek ways out of their predicament, often in vain. They might bargain with God, hoping that if they agree to some action, God will reverse what happened. It's important not to write in someone in your manuscript offering the grieving person something they can't fulfill when the character is in this stage. Offering a person false hope during this time would be terrible.

Fourth is the Depression stage, perhaps the stage we most often associate with grief. This is when the character realizes what has happened is irreversible and they turn in to themselves. Anger and Bargaining are fairly animated phases, but depression is despair and hopelessness, an inactive phase of grief. Everything will be globally looked at from this lens.

The fifth stage is Acceptance. This is when the character comes to a place of being able to move forward with their lives despite the loss. This is when terminally ill patients begin making plans for their estate and doing things they have always wanted to do (think about the movie Bucket List).

Application:

I like to think about these phases as on a continuum. People don't always move through them one to the next (as the hurdles in the picture might suggest). Many cross between them or skip one or take two steps forward and one step back ("We go together because opposites attract..." Oh, wait. Got off track here!). Grief is so individualized, making it hard to pinpoint an exact process, so remember that while you're writing.

Good luck to you as you make your character's emotions as real as possible by incorporating some of these grief phases into your manuscript!

Wordle: signature

6 comments:

Katie said...

I was just looking up the stages of grief on the internet - for Robin. Great post! No work for me tomorrow - so I'll be able to critique ch. 14. Yea - can't wait!

Lady Glamis said...

You have an awesome blog here! I can't wait to start editing on my first WIP again so I can send you questions. I have a bunch about Stockholm Syndrome. :D

Jeannie Campbell said...

thanks, lady glamis! and katie - glad i could save you some work on the grief stages. :)

Mary Connealy said...

Hi, Jeannie. I like this post. I tried to work through the stages of grief in a recent book, with my character, showing her going through deniel, anger, etc. I tried to do it subtley but I may have skipped a few steps. I'll remember the list is here. Thanks.

Jill Kemerer said...

Thanks Jeannie. The hero in my book is still very angry about his parents' divorce ten years earlier. It's as if he just stopped growing emotionally from that day. I'm going to print off this post to refer to as he slowly comes to grip with how he's mis-managing his life.

I'm glad you mentioned people skip steps, too, because I didn't picture him going through any depression stage.

Have a very blessed Easter!

Jeannie Campbell said...

mary - thanks for stopping by! and you're welcome!

jill - some people DO get stuck in one of the phases...your character's anger is really typical of the most common stuck place (the other is depression). but good luck to you as you bring about his healing!