Elisabeth Kübler-Ross was the first to outline the five stages of grief in her 1969 book, On Death and Dying. These five stages — Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance — are often associated with personal tragedy, and can be applied to any major hardship in life.
Going bald in itself is not a tragedy, but initially, it can feel like one. Hair is often synonymous with youth, virility, success, and desirability — and if you’ve lived your life proud of your hair, the day you start to lose your hair can be a true punch to the gut. It makes sense that the process of losing this part of your life and moving into another phase can act as a catalyst for the grieving process — especially so for someone who equates parts of their identity to their hair.
Perhaps Ross’s five stages of grief apply to the balding process for many men. If you are losing your hair, or know someone that is, take time to consider where you or your friend may be in the process. By taking stock of your situation and preparing for what’s to come, you can help yourself work through the stages with as much confidence and ease as possible.
Denial is a powerful weapon our brains have to protect us from things we can’t yet handle. You may have convinced yourself that your thinning hair is just a temporary problem — perhaps the result of a bad shampoo, or a lackluster hair care routine.
You may resent your friends who haven’t started to lose their hair yet. You may feel enraged every time you see more hair in the drain after a shower. You may think, “Why is this happening to me?” and immediately change the channel when hair loss ads come on the television. You’ll likely avoid any conversations about hair loss, and lash out if anyone makes a comment about your hair.
Traditionally, the bargaining stage of grief happens when you negotiate with a higher power in order to reverse your circumstances.
In the grieving process of losing your hair, however, you may also bargain in other ways — like wearing hats, or managing the physical symptoms with hair creams and pills. Ultimately, you’re just biding your time until depression, but this is a necessary step to help ready you for acceptance.
Arguably, the worst of the stages. It’s understandable that you feel depressed about your hair loss — and we’d like to remind you that being bald won’t stop you from living the life you want. Seek out bald role models to help shepherd you through to the last stage, acceptance. It’s also a good idea to talk to a trusted friend, or write in a journal to help manage feelings of depression.
When you reach this step you realize that balding is a completely normal part of life and that there are thousands of powerful, successful, sexy, happy bald men all over the world. Acceptance isn’t an immediate ticket to happiness. It’s just the beginning of a new life without hair — one that is just as vibrant and full of possibility as your life before hair loss.
These stages may come and go. You may reach depression, return to bargaining, gain partial acceptance, and move back to denial. Over time, you’ll hit these stages less and less often. You will eventually make it to acceptance, and even celebration and ownership!
If you are going through one of these stages, feel free to join our vibrant community of bald, bold, and badass men on Instagram and Facebook.