On Death and Dying

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

This book is the classic work dealing with the psychology of death. The five stages of grief were first outlined here, though they are focused more on those dying then the people grieving after they are gone. Kübler-Ross interviewed terminally ill patients as part of an interdisciplinary seminar on death, as a means of understanding what happens when people have a lot of time to face their own deaths.

It would have been good for me to have read this book in 2003 when my mother was very sick and spent eight months in a hospital before dying, but it was only recommended to me recently. It would have felt inappropriate to have read it then in many ways, which is precisely the sort of anxious denial this book critiques. While many argue that the stages of grief outlined by Kübler-Ross are too rigid and specific, there is benefit to being aware of the concepts, as long as we remember that grief is personal and specific to the people and their relationship.

NPR did a story on Kübler-Ross in June 2004, showing her to be rather impatiently awaiting her own death.