August 25, 2004 by

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross


Categories: Medicine, Writers/Editors

To millions of people facing immediate mortality, Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross offered a sense of comfort and clarity.
The best-selling author, world-renowned psychiatrist and expert on death and dying wrote more than 20 books on the subject, including “To Live Until We Say Good-Bye,” “On Children and Death” and “AIDS: The Ultimate Challenge.” But she was best known for the groundbreaking 1969 bestseller “On Death and Dying,” which presented her theory that people who are dying go through five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. She also encouraged the terminally ill to join support groups, keep a journal and plan comforting rituals to accompany their death, such as planting trees or donating money to a favorite cause.
Born a triplet in Zurich, Switzerland, Kübler-Ross weighed only 2 pounds at birth and was not expected to live. She thrived, however, and grew up to work for the International Voluntary Service for Peace. Kübler-Ross graduated from the University of Zurich medical school in 1957 and moved to New York the following year. While interning at a local hospital, she was appalled to see how dying patients were shunned and abused by the staff. In response, she decided to become an advocate for hospice care.
Kübler-Ross completed her degree in psychiatry at the University of Colorado in 1963 and made helping people understand and face death her career. She traveled the world giving lectures to members of the medical profession, and offered suggestions on how to serve terminally ill patients and their families. From 1977 to 1995, Kübler-Ross directed the Shanti Nilaya – Growth & Healing Center, a medical facility for the terminally ill in Escondido, Calif. After suffering a series of strokes five years ago, she was forced to give up most of her work on the lecture circuit.
In 1979, The Ladies’ Home Journal honored Kübler-Ross with a Woman of the Decade Award. Twenty years later, Time magazine named her one of the “100 Most Important Thinkers” of the past century. Her autobiography, “The Wheel of Life: A Memoir of Living and Dying,” was published in 1997.
Kübler-Ross died, surrounded by family and friends, on Aug. 24 of natural causes. She was 78.
Listen to an Interview With Kübler-Ross

7 Responses to Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

  1. Hilda Birchmeier, PsyD

    Dearest friends –
    Besides my parents, Elisabeth Kuebler-Ross was the person who impacted my life most.
    In 1975, my father died in a car accident traveling in Africa. With Elisabeth Kuebler-Ross’s wisdom of “Death and Dying” I was able to reach through my mother’s grief.
    A few years later my family moved to Santa Barbara. Against all odds I attended Kuebler-Ross’s lecture after having no babysitter and no car. Eventually there was no parking space, all tickets were sold out and the auditorium was packed. Someone handed me a ticket and without great effort of mine I ended up in a preferential seat in the center of the Lobero Theater. My fascination with E.K.R. and my “luck” became strong indicatiors that I would work in her field some day. But at that time I could not handle the emotional “burden”.
    Two decades later I studied psychology. Last year, I drove to Scottsdale to ask Elisabeth for guidance. Her pueblo-style home was empty, her poor health had forced the family to move her to a home. Before I drove back to Orange County I sat in her garden and connected with her spirit.
    A few weeks later I was hired by the AIDS Foundation. I am now privileged to work in Elisabeth’s field. After I complete my psychology license, I want to concentrate in E.K.R’s field. I might also consider setting up her museum in Meilen, Switzerland. See, I was born in Horgen, just across the lake of Zurich.
    Having profoundly experienced Elisabeth’s impact in various ways, I do not need to plan, things will happen.
    Thank you Elisabeth, I love you.
    Hilda Birchmeier, Psy.D.

  2. Anonymous

    Elizabeth keep living in our heart. She made a revolution with no guns, but with love, teaching us how to care terminal patients just how we want to be treated. Thanks for all and God bless you!
    Atacaju – Sergipe – Brasil

  3. C. Wooldridge

    I never had the opportunity to hear EKR but had been interested in her work for years. I am a psychotherapist and am now working at setting up a Transitions group for people having terminal illnesses. So, Elizabeth your work continues. I wish that I had been able to attend one of your 5 day retreats so that I would have had the advantage of knowing what topics you covered. Journey well and in Peace.

  4. Erika

    This lady is amazing and she will always keep living in our hearts. She is such an inspiring person to follow even though she is no longer walking on this earth.

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