Elisabeth Kübler-Ross changed the way of understanding death in the modern Western world. He contributed to the humanization of this event and laid the foundations of modern palliative care. He taught us to face death with his famous theory on the stages of mourning reminding us that it is not so terrible for those who leave us. He has thus given us a legacy of undeniable and ever-present value.
Swiss by birth, in the course of his life he received 28 honors from as many universities. In a documentary that showcases much of her work, we observe how Dr. Ross accompanied dying and terminally ill children in their last moments of life. She was gifted with immense sensitivity, and the way she gave relief and hope to those who left and those who stayed made history.
It has even been nicknamed the “mother of death”, but in reality it was the “mother of life”, as it taught us that death is part of human existence. The secret is to enjoy every day to the fullest and recognize the dignity of death as a journey to another dimension. A dimension that, according to Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, is full of love and light.
The career of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross
“You will be able to work as a secretary or service in some house, but you will never study medicine,” his father told Elisabeth Kübler-Ross when she was just over 8 when she told him about her dream of becoming a doctor.
Elisabeth was born in Zurich on July 8, 1926. She was the smallest and most fragile of triplets, but this did not prevent her from leaving her father’s home at the age of sixteen. In fact, she decided that she would not allow her father to interfere with her dreams and set out on her own path.
She worked as a volunteer during the Second World War, looking after the sick in hospital and refugees. At the end of the war, he received his medical degree from the University of Zurich and met an American doctor. She married him and moved with him to the United States, where she majored in psychiatry at the University of Colorado.
The need to recognize the dignity of the dying
In the United States, Dr. Kübler-Ross was adversely affected by the lack of psychological assistance for the terminally ill, especially children. He also noted the neglect and lack of sensitivity towards the dying. He tried to change this by starting a necessary revolution.
Thus he laid the foundations of modern palliative care. In his book Death and Dying (1969) he exposes the Kübler-Ross model which began to be applied in various hospitals.
He introduced a new subject into the courses of the University of Chicago, focused on understanding the dying process and the need to support the terminally ill. Sick people close to death took part in the lessons to bear their testimony.
Through these lessons, he elaborated and defined the stages that the terminally ill goes through: denial, anger, negotiation, depression and acceptance.
Assistance to families and the pain of loss
Dr. Kübler-Ross has helped thousands of families with her strategies to accompany dying people with dignity and to cope with the loss of a loved one. His model of the stages of mourning made it easier to manage the emotions related to this experience.
Likewise, his work and ideas have fostered the birth of several foundations that promote an approach that restores dignity to death. He also tried to create a hospice for children with AIDS, but since it was the first years of the epidemic, it attracted a lot of criticism and met with resistance. This was a goad to her heart.
Dr. Kübler-Ross has written more than 20 books on death and has traveled around the world to conduct her “ Life, Death and Transition” seminars . The proceeds were fully invested in organizing retreats to help people overcome loss, cope with illness, fears and anxieties related to the end of life.
Elisabeth Kübler-Ross: death as a dawn, a passage to a new phase
One of his most controversial books was undoubtedly On Life After Death . In it we recognize a concrete idea of death as a passage towards a new state of consciousness. The transcendence towards a dimension full of love and indescribable well-being immersed in the light… From there, according to the doctor, we embark on a journey of spiritual growth.
This vision has been criticized by the scientific community. And although his palliative care protocols and methods of coping with loss and illness were well received and accepted, his more intimate and spiritual view of death was the subject of dissent.
Nonetheless, there are many people who support this idea and feel comforted by such a vision and perspective. His reassuring and hopeful teachings about death and life are undoubtedly always relevant.