With the holiday season upon me I have tried to force myself to write a happy, cheery message. However, I have struggle and grief laden topics on my mind. Perhaps I am a pessimist. I don’t know. I think I am a realist and this is what is on my mind and heart so, I’d like to share a few messages about the toll that grief takes on a person and on a family. I have sat on this topic for over a month and can’t quite avoid it any longer or go around it. Now is the time to deal with the issue of grief. I think this will be a series of messages that I hope will by the end of the series give us some helpful and healthy ways to look at and process the grief we experience. This second section is to help us gain an awareness of the 5 Stages of Grief. In Part III, I hope to wrap it all up by giving some suggestions on helpful ways to process and move through the different aspects of grief we experience.
According to Psych Central, “There are five stages of normal grief that were first proposed by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her 1969 book “On Death and Dying.”
As a child, the holidays represented a time of bliss and all was celebration to me. However, as an adult, I reflect on the family members that are no longer here with us. Some people have broken relationships due to divorce or other irreconcilable differences and traditional times of celebration are just not so jolly. About a year ago, right before Thanksgiving, I lost my father. Although we were not as close as I would have liked to be, I had a level of understanding of who he was and I certainly loved him. I was a little melancholy for different reasons as the anniversary of his death came about. I can only imagine how difficult it is for those that have lost a relationship that was all good with someone who was very close. Some grief can be so gripping on you, that it feels like you can never get past it. Perhaps, understanding what is happening to us is a good first step in trying to figure out how to take the next step. Let’s take a look at the five stages of grief.
The 5 Stages of Grief
Denial and Isolation – We may deny that we are grieving the loss. Sometimes, I think we don’t recognize what we are going through as grief because it doesn’t involve death or the loss of a person. You can grief the loss of a relationship such as a divorce or a friendship that ended. You can also grief the loss of a community. When I left my church family in Arizona, I grieved that loss for almost a year before I realized that this feeling that I am having is actually that of a loss. This is grief and I sorely missed the community that I was a part of. When you move neighborhoods, or change jobs or in some cases, even change your phone number, the chain reaction can ultimately lead to a break in relationships. Mothers that have had abortions don’t anticipate that they will have this grief because the world tells them that “it’s not a baby yet,” but I beg to differ. There have been too many women that have experienced the loss from ending the mother-child bond. Step one would be to recognize your separation that is causing grief for what it is. According to Psych Central, “It is quite normal to rationalize overwhelming emotions…We block out the words and hide from the facts. This is a temporary response that carries us through the first wave of pain.”
Anger – Lots of us have been acquainted with feelings of anger. Some of us are angry and we don’t even know why. If this is the case for you, I would highly recommend reflective- journaling to help you get to the root of the matter. As it relates to grief, we can be angry about having to make the continuous changes that cause a break in various relationships. For example, you get laid off work and subsequently lose your apartment. This may cause you to have to move your job and housing situation, which in turn causes a loss of neighbors, co-workers or even friends. A person can also be angry about how a relationship ended. Maybe a boyfriend left you for another girl but, didn’t give you a satisfactory explanation. Another scenario might be, your aunt with whom you were feuding passed away and you never got to tell her that you were sorry and that you wished things could have been different. Yet and still, it could be that you had a great relationship with your mom and you feel like she was taken away from you too soon. Sometimes we get angry at the person for leaving us or we may direct our anger at the doctor who couldn’t save the loved one. It’s not even uncommon for a god-fearing person to be angry with God about how things turned out. Let’s recognize the underlying cause of our anger because it’s only then that we can address it in a way that helps us moved to the next stage.
Bargaining – We come to terms with the fact that our anger may be misplaced. We pull out all the stops to assert our last-ditched efforts to maintain some sort of control over the situation. Some have been known to attempt to manipulate our circumstances by bargaining with ourselves, with other people or with God. We say things like, “God if you would just save my so-and-so, I will…” You fill in the blanks. I don’t know that bargaining works in any facet of the grief process but, the one thing is for sure. If you are bargaining, at least you know what it is you want to happen, although that may be something that will never happen.
Depression – Just writing that last sentence made me a little sad. What a sense of hopelessness to know that I may be in a situation that very likely will not go my way. The army vet who lost his legs in an explosion has to come to terms with the fact that he may never walk again. A housewife reluctantly signed the divorce papers but, now has to figure out how to raise a child and pay the mortgage on one income. Depression can happen when it sets in that this is really happening to me. This is NOT what I wanted and I have no idea how to get out of this place. So, I sit here in my mess at a total loss. Some people can’t even get out of bed, they don’t eat or engage in any of their regular activities. However, other people force themselves to go through the motions but they go through them in a numb state. Hopefully, a person has family or friends to walk with them here so, they don’t have to be in this state alone.
Acceptance – In due time, we arrive at acceptance. This does not mean that we stop grieving or will ever stop grieving, it just means we come to terms with what has happened. Our minds are finally able to process the fact that this relationship is forever changed. I will not see my loved one again. We miss them immensely but we accept that they will not be at the family dinner this year. In the case of a divorce, that we agree to live two separate lives and no longer as one. Maybe when we accept this we can deal with the feelings of rejection and inadequacy. There will come a time and there comes a time, when we regain our self-worth and our joy again.
Psych Central Website