Elisabeth Kübler-Ross (1926-2004) researched the psychological process of dying, or losing a loved one, and famously described five stages of grief: Denial; Anger; Bargaining; Depression, and eventually Acceptance, in her book “On Death and Dying” (Macmillan, 1969). This model is also now often used to describe the emotional stages of change processes in business, or life in general.
When my father died he was almost 90, and had been suffering from severe dementia. So the context of his passing was not of sudden tragedy, more a quiet shock of realization that finally his day had come. There was no anger, denial and will be no depression. Rather reflection on his life and his relationship with the world, and with me. Acceptance came fast.
His passing forced me to completely change plans. My unexpected trip to the UK to say goodbye to my father triggered a complicated shifting around of agendas and meetings that were important to me. However, the context of this sudden requirement to change everything made it easy to know what to do. Everyone understood.
I suggest we need to add a sixth stage to Kubler-Ross’s model – I’ll call it ‘Moving Forward’. Bryan Tracy makes the same observation in his book “Believe it to Achieve it” (Penguin Random House, 2017) and calls it “Resurgence”. Whatever we call it, that positive forward momentum is what will take us out of the pitfalls and traps that going through difficult change can put in our path. In the end, how we approach this is up to us.
It is in our power to take action to move on from the challenges and stress of change, take them on, and to learn and be stronger from the experience. When we feel bruised, wrong-footed or threatened we need to step back and look at the context of what is happening to help us understand what is happening, and how to react. Then we need to find in ourselves the energy to move quickly to not just accept it, but to tackle it and move forward purposefully into the future.