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The Anger Stage

DABDA Theory of Coping With Death


Updated October 16, 2009

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Anger is the second stage of the DABDA theory of coping with death made popular by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. One often enters this stage of coping after moving through the denial stage.

As one accepts the reality of a terminal diagnosis, he may start to ask "Why me?" The realization that all of his hopes, dreams, and well-laid plans aren't going to come about brings anger and frustration. Unfortunately, this anger is often directed out at the world and at random. Doctors and nurses are yelled at in the hospital; family members are greeted with little enthusiasm and often suffer the random fits of rage. Even strangers aren't immune to the actions anger may bring about.

It's important to understand where this anger is coming from. A dying person may watch TV and see people laughing and dancing -- a cruel reminder that he can't walk anymore, let alone dance. People caring for him in the hospital will eventually leave him to go home and continue on with their lives, while he remains in bed.

In the book On Death and Dying, Kubler-Ross astutely describes this anger: "He will raise his voice, he will make demands, he will complain and ask to be given attention, perhaps as the last loud cry, 'I am alive, don't forget that. You can hear my voice, I am not dead yet!'"

For most people, this stage of coping is also short-lived. Again, however, some people will continue in anger for much of the illness. Some will even die angry.

Those who successfully move through the anger stage may enter the bargaining stage next.

DABDA: Breaking Down the Five Stages of Coping With a Terminal Illness

  1. Denial
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance

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  3. Dying, Funerals & Grief
  4. The Dying Process
  5. Anger - The DABDA Stage of Anger

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