Phases of Grieving

Steve Wishman
August 26, 2021

A friend of mine commented on Strip #219: "Baggage" from my graphic novel How Mom Died and said that it reminded her of a recent Radiolab episode about Elisabeth Kübler-Ross and the five stages.

Strip #219 from How Mom Died. Click HERE for the full size comic

After listening to it, I revisited this post-it note on my office wall. A couple years ago I stumbled across this two-axis diagram of the journey through the five stages. I put it on a post-it and drew a blue X where I think Mom’s journey ended. (My handwriting is just atrocious, so I whipped together a cleaner digital version.)

In the early stages of this project I had hoped to use the five stages of grieving (and the various coping mechanisms we employ) as some sort of narrative framing device (like: “Chapter 2: Anger, Chapter 3: Bargaining, etc.), but I got derailed on this idea because Mom didn’t seem to follow the Kübler-Ross trajectory. This comic strip may have been an attempt to close the loop on those ideas by leaving them open-ended.

Anyway that episode of Radiolab (listen here) gave me a lot to think about. Not everybody grieves the same and not everybody dies the same. Mom lived her entire life in that lower left hand quadrant, so why would dying be any different for her? This was just her way. ❤️

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Steve Wishman

Steve Wishman is the founder of Zen and the Art of Caregiving, and author/illustrator of How Mom Died, a webcomic/memoir chronicling his experiences as a caregiver for his mother at the end of her life.