One thing that all of humanity has in common is that each person will face loss in many ways many times throughout life. Loss does not take place only when someone dies. It also takes places through moves across the country or across town, job changes or job loss, divorce, infidelity…the list could go on and on.
I am not going to tell you anything today that will take away the pain or speed up the process of grief that you or a loved one will experience in response to any of these losses.
I don’t have a magic wand.
I am going to share a well-known understanding of grief as a cycle as proposed by Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross sometimes referred to as the acronym, “DABDA”.
Denial: “She couldn’t be dead…I just saw here this morning.”
“He will come back. I know he wouldn’t really do this.”
It doesn’t have to make sense or seem rooted in any kind of reality. Our brain is doing the best it can to make sense of something that is incomprehensible.
Anger: A person can be angry at anyone or anything. A person might be angry at the company who let them go, the pastor who left for another church, the man with whom the wife had an affair. A person might be angry at themselves, at God, or even the person who died. Again, it doesn’t have to make sense.
Bargaining: “Maybe if I am a perfect little girl mom and dad will get back (or stay) together.”
“If you will let her live I will do anything you say or go anywhere you ask.”
“If I workout every day and lose all of this weight maybe she will still love me.”
Bargaining does not have to make sense either. There is some reverting to childlike "magical thinking" that takes place in the early grief process.
Depression: This stage comes before the last, acceptance, because a person is coming face to face with the reality of the "new normal". This stage is when a person realizes that this loss is for real. There is no going back. That realization is agonizingly tough. It also is NOT a "one and done". It can sneak up on someone. It can cause shame ("I should be over this").
Acceptance: This stage is a misnomer. It could imply that grief comes to an end and you never hurt again. Life goes on AND life events will likely trigger some grief. On mother’s day ten years after your mother has died…at your wedding when your parents are divorced…at the birth of your first child and your father is gone…at the anniversary of your spouse’s death…and the holiday seasons.
This cycle is not linear. A person can jump around and skip phases. Grief is messy.
The power in knowing these stages is understanding that you or your loved one is NORMAL. Realizing that what you are going through is normal can be one of the most powerful realizations in your grief process. The more we think we are ABNORMAL, the more we fight the process, the more we feel weird, the more we get down on ourselves…and of course none of these beliefs or behaviors are very helpful for the healing process.
So, I am guessing that this week, today, this moment, you can think of someone that is facing loss. Perhaps it is yourself.
Knowing about the stages of grief could offer some comfort. When a person understands that they are not alone in what they are experiencing that understanding alone can be comforting.