The Five Stages of Baseball Grief

Swiss born psychiatrist, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, M.D., published her groundbreaking book on the five stages of grief in 1969. It's been a model for those who have to deal with grief, to understand why we react the way we do and therefore to adapt to what life has thrown our way with some insight. Here they are and feel free to post where you are at this point: Denial, Bargaining, Anger, Depression, Acceptance. Cubs fans will most definitively recognize many of the 5 stages over the decades and for the most senior of us remaining, over the century. Here are a few of my thoughts regarding the events surrounding some of our lasting experiences with grief. It is appropriate that the work came out in 1969 as that season was my first experience with baseball grief. Sweet swinging Billy Williams, Mr. Cub, Ace Fergie Jenkins, Ronnie Santo clicking his heels, Dick Selma working the left field bleacher bums into a frenzy, The black cat at Shea Stadium and Leo the Lip, Lou Brock as a Cardinal, Seaver, Koosman and Al Weis?---they all were burned into my memories and the pain of not going to the World Series still lingers. 1984 style grief was symbolized by a ground ball going under Leon Durham's legs during game 5 of the NLCS, but Rick Sutcliffe, Ryne Sandberg and the Men is Blue are to this day a part of my heart and heartache. 1989 was represented by rookie leadoff star Jerome Walton and his 30 game hitting streak, a young Greg Maddux and Mark Grace, Ryne Sandberg in his prime, a great but gimpy Hawk/Andre Dawson and a Giants team that was subjected to an earthquake as their payback to have the audacity to beat the Cubs in the playoffs. 1998 images include rookie Kerry Wood blazing strikeouts into our hearts, Rod Beck rollercoaster riding us with over 50 saves and Slammin Sammy at his homer happy best. Getting beaten in game 3 of the NLDS by Greg Maddux, now that's what I'm talking about. The Cubs history is littered with examples where they have experienced pain, futility and grief that bites us in the butt. Here is a prime example in all it's vindictive anguish. 2003. Alex Gonzales, Mark Prior, Moises Alou, Joe Borowski and Sammy. Enough, I get it and it still hurts. Dr. Kübler-Ross' work noted that the stages don't always happen in a strict order, nor do the subjects experience all the stages (but at least two). The five Stages 2007 style: 1. Denial: Sunday, October 7th. Listening to WGN radio's mid-day post mortem and hearing Ronnie Santo say he's going to be free to attend his JDRF fundraiser the following weekend rather than broadcasting the NLCS. Oh, Ronnie, tell me it's not so. 2. Bargaining: 5th inning, game 3 of the NLDS. Sitting in my section 213 seat, bases loaded, DeRosa 3-1 pitch. I guess the transaction I requested will never happen. 3. Anger: Ted Lilly and me (by my TV), simultaneously windmilling our gloves (I'm a lefty too) to the ground after immediately giving up our only lead in the NLDS. 4. Depression: Soriano led the majors in first inning/leadoff homers. Does that mean anything in the playoffs? We get a dose of our own medicine when the first pitch by Rich Hill is blasted into the LF bleachers in NLDS game 3. That strange whooshing sound was the slow letting of air out of our baseball balloon. 5. Acceptance: The General Managers meetings start November 3rd. Here's to Hendry and Lou being prepared to cope with a century of grief.


Dr. Kübler-Ross, 5 stages of grief - Never heard that before!

Actually Dr. Joe thanks for all of your reports this year, your insight into medicine and sports was first rate.

i am happily at acceptance, for primarily 3 reasons:

1. my expectations of this club were lower from the outset; by winning 85 and finishing first they did exactly as i suspected. nor did i ever have them beating the mets, nor the phils, nor the padres. losing to az was not on the menu, but...

2. even though this years club is kaput, they will re-surface in approx 6 months to rejoin the battles. without the extended 2 months of spring training in april and may we all endured this year, they should take a large leap forward. with a couple of new additions, including ownership and management, (not to mention a few subtractions) this team ought to be the one against whom other clubs measure themselves.

3. the cubs may be dead, but life carries on. no time to spare for weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth.

I'm in the depression stage right now

TCR official motto should be "Misery Loves Company."

I guess I have been in the acceptance stage for a long long time. As a Cub fans since the 1940s and hoping that my favorite player, Andy Pafko, could some day play in a World Series. ( He did but in a Milwaukee Braves uniform) I found this year to be agreat success after the complete disaster of 2006.

mmm social psychology.

TCR official motto should be “Misery Loves Company.”
Phillies fans and Angelfan wife also welcome, today only.

TCR...we got an eye on the ground in phoenix who's proactive...we got a doctor who knows more about bones and joints than snoop dog...we got a crew of other english-literate writers pounding out quality content...


Pretty much it's just Anger and acceptance for your typical Cubs fans. You can't go through all five of those phases every year, it's just too exhausting.

Where is dring until blacking out stage?


The Cubs history is littered with examples where they have experienced pain, futility and grief that bites us in the butt. Here is a prime example in all it’s vindictive anguish.
2007 counterpart: AUGIE, AUGIE!!

The regular season was like a good meal. The playoffs were a huge slice of dog-shit pie for dessert.

It's gonna take a little while to get the taste out of my mouth.

I'm at Depression.

Kubler-Ross was on to something, although in sports the first 2 stages get kinda skipped since there's an objective final score to deal with. It's hard to deny or bargain when Arizona is celebrating on our field, although I suppose "I can't believe this!" and "Next year will be better" may be flavors of those 2 phases.

(If memory serves, didn't Kubler-Ross ironically get diagnosed with a terminal disease and pretty much go against the teachings and philosophies she had taught for so many years? But, I digress.)

Didn't Dusty get us to the playoffs his first year too?

It was a little easier this year than in '03 simply because they squashed our optimism way back in April and their revival was an unexpected surprise. After '03, it felt like we were next. '08 will feel like most any other year -- maybe greatness, maybe muck. The 100th anniversary of our last triumph is going to be tiresome. When we do we all start speculating on Prior's rehab schedule?

Can I also just say -- if it's not Cubs v. Mets for the NLCS, I'm pretty happy to see Arizona-Colorado and another year of the smaller market/wild card teams giving it to the big market/big ticket teams? Three years from now, all their stars will be on big market teams anyway.

What stage is it when you feel the ever - present sense of deja vu when Lilly slams his glove to the mound in anger? So many bad memories tend to morph into one giant blob of hopelessness.

I say again, the Cubs are dead to me. Im now a Phillies Phanatic! I hear there is a sale on D cells at CVS this week. I can stock up for next year.

With how quickly this season came to a crashing hault, I think I only had time for 2 of the stages. Anger & acceptance. It's honestly easier to forget about baseball for the off season when you get whipped versus blowing something that was easily within your grasp.

There is enough denial and depression left over from 2003 anyway....

Acceptance, but I'm over 40, it gets easier to plow through them when you've done it so often....

Very astute of the good doctor to go through 2003 without naming "he who shall not be named" (not MP, the other one) and recognizing the true culprit - Alex Gonzalez.

Well, there's no relief stage, and I hate to say it but honestly towards the end of game three that's exactly how I felt.
Absolutely nothing came easy this season.

It was like a long roadrunner cartoon with a hundred more anvils.

I'm glad its over.

im stuck between anger and depression, but more depressed i suppose.

a better term is disgusted.

no hits by aramis, being out produced by augie effing ojeda.

marmol giving up more runs than he did all year.

and all those EFFING double plays in game 3.

I go straight to stage six:

Arizona Instructional League is already in progress, Arizona Fall League Opening Day is tomorrow, and then Spring Training starts in about 120 days.

I hit stage 5 at about 11:30PM Thursday. I got in bed, had the radio on listening to Ron be upset, and realized then it was over. A tangible calm came over me, and I fell asleep before the game was over. And I slept very, very well.

Saturday brought only relief in the knowing that my hopes wouldn't be brought back (and probably subsequently dashed... *again*), and that I wouldn't be spending any more money on $5 beers in Wrigleyville bars. At least not, as they say, until next year.

I feel like Steve Martin in "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" when he's at the rental car counter telling the lady all of the effing things he wants right effing now. She calmly listens to the whole tirade and basically tells him he's effed in the end. That's being a Cubs fan in a nutshell.

Dr. Kübler-Ross wrote the book on grief, but Charles Dickens said it better in Great Expectations (appropriately).

" . . .suffering has been stronger than all other teaching, and has taught me to understand what your heart used to be. I have been bent and broken, but - I hope - into a better shape."

There really is no acceptance, just bent and broken, hopeful fans.

I'm like Arizona Phil, I am in Stage 6--hope.

If you look at the turnaround of this year from 2006, you have to consider the season a success.

There are opportunities to improve the team besides adding A-Rod, which I do not think will happen. There will be some flexibility in the roster with Kendall, Monroe and Floyd likely gone and Prior possibly gone.

See? Stage 6: hope.

For me, it's a couple of things that brought about immediate acceptance. First, having a five-month old kid puts a lot of things into perspective. But also, having lived through '03, this is nothing. It was quick and painless, relatively speaking. After '03, I had serious doubts about whether my Cub fandom would continue. I got over those thoughts, but it took a while.

First, having a five-month old kid puts a lot of things into perspective.
Hopefully, your child hasn't imprinted on the Ted Lilly Windmill maneuver. He/She might blame you forever.

I have been bent and broken, but - I hope - into a better shape...
Yeah, so even Dickens predicted Cubs fans would be warped.

Hope ... What Emily Dickinson called "a thing with feathers" - I guess because the shotguns of reality are pointed at it.

But I'll bite: Just what is there to hope about? The guys on this team are not going to be getting better, with the possible exception of Hill and Marshall. For the most part, what you see is what you get. Clearly, this team is not good enough to go anywhere in the postseason. And it's real, real doubtful that Hendry will have much money to spend on free agents, or be able to sweet-talk some chump into taking these guys off his hands.

So, just what is there to hope about? How does this team get better? AZ Phil, help me: give me a reason to think that stage 6 is hope, and not despair.

Stage 6: Rejoicing in the Sorrow of Others.

As in, I'm so happy that the Yankees were eliminated last night!

Stage 7: Counting the stinking days until the first televised Spring Training game.

sox fan here. you have my sympathies.