Loss. Pain. Regret. Anguish. All of these are emotional components that support grieving. Grieving is the difficult “goodbye” we must say to the way things once were. Whether it is saying goodbye to a loved one, to a part of ourselves, or to a way of life we have become accustomed to, fewer emotions take a deeper toll upon us.
Life altering situations can, and often do blindside us. We are caught off guard and often ill-prepared to deal with a crippling blow dealt to us in the form of extreme losses. Most often grief is dealt as we try to reconcile our current selves with an imposed and often uncomfortable change in our routines and relationships. A cycle is broken and interactions cease, and we experience deep and profound emotional difficulty in accepting and dealing with certain inevitability. Grief often is most difficult in its permanence.
The Kubler-Ross explanation of grief deals with 5 stages some are familiar with. An understanding of these helps us realize that our pain and situation is personal, yet many of us grieve similarly. Although listed in order of occurance, at times some steps may be skipped or rearranged.
1. Denial – “This just cannot be happening!” This short-lived response is often our initial defense to ourselves in digesting the news we must eventually face.
2. Anger – “Why me?!” “This isn’t fair!” This phase will often include blaming after the initial denial wears off. Emotional ups and downs are accompanied by resentments and bitterness to those who are not experiencing loss in similar situations.
3. Bargaining – “Please God, just let me have more time!” Or, “If Mom gets better, I will be a better person!” This is a phase where a strong clinging to hope occurs. Often unrealistic expectations of a desired outcome can set people up for even greater disappointments and resentments.
4. Depression – “This is it, who cares if I die?” “Why bother?” This is the threshold to where the certainty of the situation sets in. Isolation from others is often a symptom of this stage, to where deep processing of the events occur. This can be healthy in cleansing and grasping the understanding of what is transpiring. Observers should allow this to occur, but monitor extreme or destructive behavior as professional intervention may need to occur.
5. Acceptance – “It is what it is.” “All will be okay.” This is where people make peace with the situation. Some apparent disconnection from certain components may still remain, but it is where the struggle against the reality diminishes, and the acceptance takes over.
Originally this was to define the stages individuals went through in dealing with a terminal disease, but also pertains to loss of loved ones, divorce, recovery from addiction, job loss, and catastrophes.
Staying connected is essential to healthy grieving.
Connect to the best of your ability to your spiritual self to remain aware of what you are feeling. Primarily you may find you feel alone. Perhaps you may feel misunderstood in how you feel. Staying in tune with yourself and your needs is paramount to healing and grieving. Prayer and meditation are not only important in normal situations, but can be the best medicine in life’s extremes.
Connect to those who know you best. Seek solace from friends or family in times you find most difficult. You will find that often the things they offer you may not want to hear, but your true loved ones will offer you what is in your best interest. They know you best when you find you may feel you no longer know yourself.
Connect to spiritual counsel. The clergy or spiritual counselors can offer sage advice when trying to overcome deep emotional hurdles. They often present a different angle that allows you another path to dealing with difficult situations. Spiritual and religious books are also found to be soothing in times of deep crisis and are very therapeutic.
Connect to professional counsel. Psychologists and other professional counselors are trained in helping individuals as well as families in dealing with difficult issues. Initially their detachment from the situation in a personal manner may be helpful in allowing you to deal with your issues sooner.
Although no one likes to be caught in grieving, it is indeed a natural and normal human experience. Life can and will eventually return to its rightful balance. Remember that life’s deep waters are not sent to watch us drown, but to see how well we can swim!
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