Grieving and Hair Loss

Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross was a pioneer in understanding how humans grieve. Further studies and observations over the years has shown that the way we grieve is similar regardless of what it is we are actually grieving.

As Dr. Kubler-Ross first described nearly 50 years ago, grieving commonly occurs through 5 stages that include:

  1. denial and isolation
  2. anger
  3. bargaining
  4. depression and
  5. acceptance.

Not all stages have the same length and don't necessarily occur one after the other like the chapters in a book. Not all patients reach the end - acceptance. There is tremendous variation in how people grieve but Kubler-Ross's model has served as a valuable model for decades.

There is little written about grieving and hair loss. You'll never hear about the topic at any hair meeting. It has become increasingly clear to me over the years that some forms of hair loss lead to such profound changes in a person's appearance that they trigger the same grieving responses as one might have with any illness or cosmetic alteration in appearance. Patients with rapid alopecia areata, scarring alopecias, hair shedding disorders as well as androgenetic alopecia often grieve the loss of an appearance they once had. For many, hair loss brings profound changes in one's self-identify and overall self confidence. Many affected patients also progress through the grieving stages of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.



2. Kubler-Ross. On Grief and Grieving. 2007.

Dr. Jeff Donovan is a Canadian and US board certified dermatologist specializing exclusively in hair loss. To schedule a consultation, please call the Whistler office at 604.283.1887

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