The kubler ross model is more commonly known as the five stages of grief and was first introduced by psychiatrist Elizabeth Kubler-Ross.
The theory breaks down the stages of personal loss and grief that people go through in relation to death and loss while also helping to develop the practices and understanding of bereavement.
This theory is what I have based my short script Mako on as it follows a young boy into a supernatural world which embodies the separate stages of his grief.
The model breaks down the stages as follows:
It has been stated that not everyone follows these steps exactly but the model itself is a good way of understanding and rationalizing the emotions of those experiencing a great personal loss.
The theory is not only relative to death but can also been seen in those who have gone through a life altering experience such as divorce, loss of a job or substance abuse.
The theory is useful in that it can be applied to many situations and helps you see a glimpse into the mindset of others who have experienced such a dramatic change.
The fact that this theory can be applied to a variety of situations allows us to look deeper into each stage and see what events trigger certain emotions and understand psychologically how different people deal with these feelings.
Many can see death as the ultimate emotional trauma but this is different from person to person and how they handle their emotions, as stated earlier any form of loss can trigger this profound grief, this is something that I seek to explore within my script as people have different coping mechanisms. One mechanism that can commonly be seen are those who are in shook from the event, in which the sufferer becomes almost numb to the world around them as they are still trying to process the new information presented to them, another is those who take of others during their own shock and bereavement as it helps them organize their thoughts and cope with their own grief. This is something I have attempted to implement with the parental figures within Mako, not only are they the care giver archetypes of my story but they are handling their grief through taking care of their son and nursing him through his own.
My main protagonist Mako is on the other end of the spectrum who can be seen in shock with his lack of emotion and response to anything in front of him, It is not until he travels to the supernatural world that he comes out of shock and begins to face the stages of grief.
Through my own personal experiences with grief and loss I know that these two coping mechanisms exist and what role they play within the grieving process, adding my own perspective to this model has allowed me to shape the story in a more down to earth way.
– At the stage of denial it is easy to see how ones behavior may be, like with substance addiction or loss of a relationship it is common for the suffer to not acknowledge the problem or for them to think that they can fix it quickly. Denial is the refusal to accept the new information presented to you or information that may already be lingering in the mind, this sums up perfectly the psyche of someone suffering with grief as it has been described as the refusal or inability to comprehend a situation that juxtaposes what you want or believe.
A common sign of denial in those who have a substance abuse problem is that they will simply ignore the advice of others and simply carry on with their day to day lives, I have tried to reflect this with my manifestation of denial, an endless carnival.
The location of a carnival or street party seemed like the ideal place to show the contrasting emotions as everyone present in the scene is simply carrying on with no regard for others, this can be seen with setting off fireworks in the street and simply ignoring those that attempt to interact with them.
-At the stage of anger it is easier to imagine that emotion as it is something that we feel without grief, the anger shown here however is one that is directed at everything around the sufferer. Those that are suffering from withdrawal may have outbursts toward others around them, isolating and distancing those closest to them, I tried to reflect this possible outcome of anger by manipulating the crowd at the carnival, but making them become shadowy figures whose eyes became fixed on Mako. By adding this change to the people in the scene it shows a representation of the distance the people around Mako now have, pushing them away not at a pyshical level but an emotional one, as the setting reflects Mako’s emotional state this new stage of grief is able to manifest shifting the crowd back to strangers and representing how those suffering from intense anger in their grief may do the same to those around them.
Another representation of anger is through the dragon, transforming this set piece into a character enables me to play with fire. Fire can be seen as a tool for destruction, burning metaphorical bridges and again highlighting the possible distance Mako’s anger is pushing the people around him to.
The second reason for utilizing fire is due to the old religious belief that it cleanses and its use during 16th century capital punishment for crimes like heresy or witchcraft.
The belief that burning the body meant the soul had nothing to return to in the next life is something I find interesting and is something that I wish to utilize in the script, as the story focuses on a boy chasing his grandfathers spirit through what seems to be an afterlife. It is only fitting that the use of fire not only cleanses the souls of those in the scene allowing them passage into the afterlife but also burns through the spiritual manifestation of Mako’s denial into anger in a type of emotional and spiritual cleanse.
-Bargaining can be defined as trying to get a better deal, haggling with another to get something you want, within the stages of grief this can be perceived as turning toward a higher power and asking for change. This can be seen as a state of panic as the realization of your situation has begun to settle in.
You compromise and promise change in yourself or offer something you believe is of equal value to get something you want, within the stages of grief in relation to death, the result will always end in an unfavorable outcome leading to the next stage.
Within my script I introduce a character named Toe who is there to answer Mako’s pleas and offer him a deal to get what he wants, this character is a trickster and will always rig the deal for a better outcome on his end. The reason that this is important is to relate to those in grieving who ask a higher power for the return of their loved one but their pleas are ultimately left unanswered.
This stage can lead back to anger as the person experiencing their grief may feel cheated reverting them back to brief moments of anger.
-Depression is the lowest stage emotionally speaking, it is where the realization of your grief has set in and although you have begun to accept the situation your strong emotions still remain.
For this stage I have used personal experience and accounts from those that have suffered from it to empower this scene. It has been described as a massive pressure weighing on your shoulders, one that you can not escape from, almost as if you are floating/falling with no influence over your speed or direction.
To me that description reminds me of an ocean, with waves of emotion flooding over you and dragging you deeper and deeper.
When dealing with depression in relation to grief, you feel a deep remorse and sadness over the events that have occurred but you know that there is something better to come, acceptance.
The thought of that something better is comforting to those dealing with grief and helps lift them out of their depression and onto the next stage and while I imagine an endless ocean surrounding my character it is important to acknowledge the light at the end of the tunnel.
-Acceptance being the final stage of grief is when you are finally able to let go and accept the changes that have occurred and are now stronger from the experience.
Within my script I have used the character of Pa as the manifestation of this stage, not only is who what Mako has been chasing but he also represents the path that has lead Mako through each stage to the next.
I wanted this scene to be a peaceful one, where Pa himself has accepted his passing as those who are dying must go through their own stages of grief when facing their mortality. Making this scene as quiet as possible allowed for peaceful and content atmosphere that not only represented the manifestation of acceptance but the inner peace found when at this stage.
Pa also represents the mentor archetype, teaching Mako what he must do to move forward in his life and how to come to terms with his grief.