The Five Stages of Grief

By Pastan, Linda | Chicago Review, Summer-Fall 1996 | Go to article overview

The Five Stages of Grief


Pastan, Linda, Chicago Review


Linda Pastan published "The Five Stages of Grief" in the Spring 1977 issue of Chicago Review, shortly before it became the title poem of her 1978 collection. That book won the di Castagnola Award. PASTAN recently wrote to us about this poem:

I wrote "The Five Stages of Grief" at a time when a close friend's traumatic divorce coincided with my reading of Elizabeth Kubler Ross, who had defined those stages. It seemed to me that my friend's reaction to the loss of a spouse followed the stages one is said to go through when coping with one's own imminent death or the death of someone loved. If I remember correctly, the poem seemed to write itself. Later, I made it the title poem of my third collection of poetry. (That book itself was divided into five sections, one for each of grief's stages, and each poem seemed to fit magically into the right place.) Since that time, "The Five Stages of Grief" has been anthologized in a number of places, most happily for me in On Doctoring (1991), edited by Richard Reynolds and John Stone, which, I have been told, is distributed to every entering medical student in the country. The poem has also been used in the curriculum of several courses about loss and grief.

The night I lost you someone pointed me towards the Five Stages of Grief. Go that way, they said, it's easy, like learning to climb stairs after the amputation. …

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