the five stages of deconstruction

five stages of deconstruction cartoon by nakedpastor david hayward
“The Five Stages of Deconstruction” (by nakedpastor David Hayward)

If you don’t know about the Kübler-Ross model of the stages of death and dying and grief, you should. I have it very helpful for all kinds of things. Including the deconstruction of faith and beliefs. Here’s my own personal interpretation as they apply to my deconstruction:

  1. Denial: We are certain that the answer we have believed must work. Doubt may have entered in, but we’re going to hold on faithfully to our beliefs. They’ve worked all these years and proven themselves true. Why fail us now?
  2. Anger: It dawns on us that, indeed, we have doubt, and that the answer we’ve faithfully believed for so long no longer suffices. We are angry at God, Satan, our spouses, our selves, life, etc. We are very frustrated that confusion has moved in.
  3. Bargaining: Realizing that the answer we’ve held to has failed, we go for a second opinion, or a third… desperately looking for an answer that makes sense. We run around compromising and making deals with other ideas in an effort to stay alive spiritually.
  4. Depression: We sadly realize that there is no clear answer forthcoming. What we are losing isn’t being replaced by anything satisfactory. The temptation is to give up. This is a very dark and deeply confusing time. It feels like spiritual death.
  5. Acceptance: We finally understand that there is no answer and we can live in the depth of the mystery. An indescribable peace comes over our minds that radiates throughout our whole being. Finally our souls are at rest.

This may not be your story. But maybe it is. And remember: we may not progress neatly and linearly through these stages. We may cycle around them and jump from one to another or live in two at the same time. We are very complex and unique people. My journey is mine and yours is yours.

I invite you to join The Lasting Supper, an online community mostly of people who are supporting one another through their own personal deconstruction.

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  • I’d like to make a point about “the Kübler-Ross model of the stages of death and dying and grief.” Most people don’t know this, but Dr. Kübler-Ross wrote about those as the stages of death/dying, yes, *for one who is dying*–NOT as the stages of grief, for those who grieve one who departs.

    Grief has no stages.

    There can be patterns that grievers will experience in common…and/or it takes on a life of its own. But stages? With neat beginnings and endings and a being “done” when you get “through” the “last” “stage”? No.

    Grief has no stages.

    I know, this isn’t the point of your post, but please…for the sake of all those of us who grieve, please…don’t call them the “stages of…grief.”

  • Thanks Connie. You are right about Kübler-Ross’ model being developed specifically for the dying. Her model was so revolutionary that many have found it useful for understanding other processes of trauma, crisis and loss. Her model is used by many grief counselors, divorce counselors, amputees, and more. The complexity of grief is overwhelming and resists categorization for sure. But sometimes having a framework to help us understand it a little better can be helpful. Again, thanks for your contribution to this important conversation. 🙂

  • If therapists want to talk about the bargaining (or whichever) “aspect” of someone’s grief, I can be OK with that. And that’s just it–I prefer to think of them as *aspects*…that can arise alone or in combination and with or without any obvious trigger.

    I guess I’ve just seen too many people who’ve been shamed by the unknowing for not being: “farther along” in their grief or “out of that stage by now” or “over it yet.” When those unknowing…experience it themselves, they will learn: grief is something that stays with you, to one degree or another. It changes, it may even “get better,” but it stays with you.

    Sorry…my soapbox.

  • Shary Hauber

    Those who have been abused as children often use the denial to survive. But knowing that each of these is part of the response is very helpful. True that each person has these responses in many different orders. Also going back many times. Just knowing helps.

  • Worthy soapbox. I agree. This should never ever be used for shaming. Ever! Everyone has their own journey at their own pace.

  • Thank you. 🙂 xo

  • This looks great (in theory!)

    Unfortunately, many people fail to get from step 4) to step 5)

  • Cecilia Davidson

    I feel like I’m stuck moving back and forth between 3, 4, and 5.

  • normanprather

    I tend to describe them as “events” since they re-occur. I’ve learned describing them in that manner helps people avoid confusion, self-doubt, and frustration.

  • @ David:
    Dude, did you see this video by the deaf pastor who deconverted from Christianity? You’ll like it. Especially because your cartoons appear there:

    2:07 “Five Stages of Deconstruction”

    3:14 “The History of My Bible

    Just to remind you again, that your good influence is wider than you may imagine.

    Thought you’d like to know.

  • Ooops: here is the link to the video with your cartoons:

  • Ya I just saw that now. Thanks Sabio!

  • So, here, on another post, or some other time, it would be fun to hear how you think this pastor and you differ?