Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

Born July 8, 1926 in Zurich, Switzerland Elisabeth Kubler-Ross was the oldest of triplets, Erika and Eva of Protestant Christian parents. In 1957 she graduated from the University of Zurich Medical School. She was induced in the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 2007 and the recipient of twenty various honorary degrees throughout her career. She suffered two miscarriages, and eventually had a son, Kenneth, and a daughter, Barbara. In 1995 Kübler-Ross suffered a series of strokes which left her partially paralyzed on her left side. She died in 2004 of natural causes.

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Upon reading Kubler-Ross’ book, Questions and Answers On Death and Dying, I found that it is set up in a question and answer/advise format. The questions evolved from various formats, such as workshops, lectures and seminars. It is her belief that the process of dying or learning one has a terminal illness processes in five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. After reviewing my own experience with the passing of my son in 2000, I believe her hypothesis is correct. If more caregivers offered some type of this psychological counseling, many people could possibly deal with death and dying a little easier.

During her work and volunteer missions, she found that many people, including families, and doctors, either avoided talking with the dying person or didn’t know what to say to them. By addressing this problem through seminars, lectures and books her hope was to familiarize family, care-givers and professionals with what dying people are thinking and feeling. By being familiar with some of the issues, denial of death would hopefully pass and the patients wouldn’t feel so alone in the dying process. It is noted in the book, that often times the terminally ill person doesn’t really want to talk about their impending death. The want to talk about “tomorrow”.

What are the plans for tomorrow, what will the weather be tomorrow ~ indicating they still often hold a glimmer of hope for survival or an after-life. She often referred to death as “the greatest mystery in science.” I would have to agree with this in certain situations. Although as human beings we know we will not live forever, we know some will pass away through terminal illness, some will die by accident ~ the mystery begins to enter when we question “When” and “Why”.

Her lifelong dedication of helping the terminally ill, as well as their families and friends to deal with loss and death lives on through the Elisabeth Kubler-Ross Foundation, established in her name in 2004. This foundation is volunteer based working mainly with the ideal Kubler-Ross established during her lifetime. The foundation presents options to dying people such as in-home nursing care so people can come to their final rest in a more comfortable environment often times with their family and clergy at their side. Kubler-Ross dedicated a large portion of her life volunteering for various entities. The first noted was at the age of 13 she volunteered to help Polish war victim at the beginning of World War II. This lead her to become active with the International Voluntary Service for Peace, which was also established shortly after World War II. This group currently has over 3000 voluntary projects worldwide. Kubler-Ross’ research, volunteerism and theories is her legacy to any and all facing death, including the patient, the families, the doctors and scholars.


1) Elisabeth Kübler-Ross Foundation website
2) Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. (2014). The website. Retrieved 07:49, Apr 28, 2014, from

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