Phases of Grief

The 4 phases of parental grief in the context of children with limited abilities by Paulo Selber, MD


In the last decade, it has become clear to me that parents/caregivers of children with disabilities demonstrate consistent appropriate emotional patterns. It begins when a child is born with neurological disorder or when a diagnosis is made and the patterns evolve as the parents become more familiar with cerebral palsies and their children’s abilities. I call this emotional process the 4 phases of parental grief in the context of children with limited abilities. The phases resemble Drs. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’ & David Kessler’s stages of grief, but not completely.

Phases 1 & 2: Shock followed by Denial

Phase 2 tends to be more verbal. 

Phase 3: Grief

 I have no single word description for this phase. I respectfully believe it might naturally and rightly sound and feel like, “my child must have whatever can be done to cure this disorder as soon as possible.”

Phase 4: Arrival

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P.S.  Although I write about parental reactions and stressors, it is imperative that we all understand and recognize that the patient is our primary responsibility. Serving every patient with attentiveness, kindness, and respect is our first priority.